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2015 was a fantastic year for sport, as we’ve already speculated elsewhere in this copy; but does 2016 hold as much promise? Here’s my thoughts on some of the most hotly anticipated sporting events of the next 12 months.
Rugby Is Sixy
Whilst rugby definitely isn’t my go to sport (I’ll be perfectly honest, I really don’t have a clue what is going on 80% of the time), it’s quite difficult to miss the annual competition of the Six Nations that takes over February and March. At the time of going to print, we’re awaiting announcement of squads, and I am reliably informed that fit players for England’s squad for their first match against Scotland are becoming few and far between. Last year saw an incredibly exciting final day, which fans will undoubtedly be hoping for a repeat of, though it would be great for it to go England’s way instead, sparking what could be a great year of sporting achievements.
One to watch: New coach Eddie Jones’ has sparked some controversy as perhaps not being the best man for the job, though he’s stated he will lean towards selecting younger, home grown players, hoping to recover from England’s woes at 2015’s Rugby World Cup.
Road to Rio
It hardly seems like five minutes since the Olympic and Paralympics of 2012. Excitement may not be as ripe as four years ago when the great games came to London, but with a great year for athletics and sport having just passed us, there is plenty to get excited about. Hopefully, the UK will return as good of a crop of medals as in 2012, though it’s a shame that that we won’t see a Team GB women’s football team fielded, particularly given England’s success at the World Cup.
One to watch: 93-year-old Bill Guilfoil is trying out for the US Olympic table tennis team, having narrowly missed out on a spot on the team in 2012. Also, the addition of golf as a new sport, which brings me nicely on to…
Easy Ryde for America?
The Ryder Cup. I’m not even slightly ashamed to admit that I have been known to get pretty in to the golf. Yes, it can be a little dry, and we’re unlikely to see a repeat of 2012’s “miracle at Medinah”, but with Europe hoping for a third consecutive win, on away ground at Minnesota’s Hazeltine, the bi-annual event is definitely on my one to watch. Following two defeats on the bounce, the USA will be looking confident after a major overhaul of their team selection process by means of the “Ryder Cup Task Force”, with Davis Love III captaining the team, alongside vice captains Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk and Phil Mickelson. Darren Clarke is the only announced member of the European outfit currently announced
One to watch: Rickie Fowler’s colourful attire, should he be selected to represent the USA.
Chat Something Get Something
It’s undoubtedly going to be an interesting and unexpected finish to the 2015/16 Premier League season, with 2016 already showing changing fortunes for a number of closely watched sides. We’ve already started to see everyone’s favourite underdogs, Leicester, falter with four games without a win. Chelsea look to be a completely different team under Guus Hiddink. And everyone seems to have finally sat up and looked at Spurs as genuine title contenders. Meanwhile, at the bottom of the table Villa are almost inevitably putting an end to their 23 year strong Premier League run, with a draw at League Two side Wycombe being their latest struggle in a frustrating campaign so far. We’ve just seen the third round of the FA Cup, with Oxford United’s giant killing of Swansea and non-league Eastleigh holding Bolton Wanderers to a draw being the notable “cupsets”. We’re only weeks in to the year, but domestically, football is certainly shaping up to be an interesting one.
One to watch: Too many to choose from, but as I do love some good manager related drama, it’s where the careers of Guardiola and Mourinho will be come the end of the year.
Brexit in the Euros?
Of course, the big one to watch in international football this year is the UEFA Euros. Spain come in defending back to back wins, and Germany will be hoping to snatch the title from them, as they did with the World Cup. It’s undoubtedly going to be interesting to see how Hodgson’s squad pans out; just one example being Rooney facing fierce competition from in form newcomers such as Kane and Vardy. In terms of how England will fare, a promising qualifying stage and a somewhat inconsistent UEFA coefficient has seen the Lions placed in a group with Russia, Wales and Slovenia; which hopefully will lead to more success than 2012’s competition.
One to watch: A potential shake-up in attack potentially leading to a more thorough penalty-taking force, and I’m sure we can all agree that would be a good thing.
Of course, this only touches on my personal highlights for the year. Murray’s strong performance in the Davis Cup presents many promising thoughts for the year’s tennis competitions, and Hamilton’s possible continued domination in Formula 1 are just another couple of examples of what a brilliant year 2016 will hopefully present for sport.