It being Christmas Day and all, I thought I’d share some sporting hopes for the coming year.Euro 2016 being both entertaining and passing off without incident
This coming year sees something of an experiment coming to the fore. The first 24-team European Championships has seen a refreshing band of countries – the likes of Wales, Northern Ireland, Iceland and Albania – join Europe’s usual elite. As usual though, Scotland aren’t there. The group stage in particular will be interesting to see if it lives up to previous 16-team European Championships. In previous Euros, every group game was as important as the last – with 24 teams and with only 8 going out in the first round, there may be the potential for sides drawing three games and still going through. Here’s hoping that’s not the case and we see some open, attractive football in France next summer.
The more important hope, and frankly if the Euros have 51 0-0 drawn games this is still more important, I would really like the whole thing to go off without anything horrible happening. Given events in Paris in November I imagine the French and indeed European security services will be planning down to the finest detail – one can only hope that whatever measures are put in place work, and the hundreds of thousands of supporters have a safe as well as an enjoyable tournament, whether their team finishes first or last.
Rio 2016 is almost as good as London 2012
This year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro have had something of a troubled gestation. Not long after the Games were awarded to Rio, the proposed athletics stadium was closed for a year due to structural problems. There continue to be questions asked over how clean the water will be for the sailing and open water swimming events. The world is awaiting something of a logistical disaster to occur in Brazil in the summer, I fear.
Nonetheless, there have been previous Olympic Games, and other massive sporting events, where similar worries have been espoused only to be blown out of the water. We were constantly told that Brazil wasn’t ready to host the World Cup in 2014, with the same story for South Africa four years previously. As it was, both events were fantastic, with the quality of football on show in Brazil among the best in World Cups since perhaps 1986.
Previous Summer Olympics have not had their troubles to seek either. London 2012 went way over budget (particularly when someone remembered to add VAT to the bill) but was still a fantastic success. Athens in 2004 was finished at the last minute but still put on a fantastic show in the Games’ spiritual home, thought that largesse perhaps looks a little silly given Greece’s economic woes.
So my hope? That Rio de Janeiro puts on an Olympic Games that Brazil and South America can be proud of, and that the world can enjoy almost or as much as it enjoyed those exemplary games in London nearly four years ago.
Leicester City to get into the UEFA Champions League (at least)
My last Christmas hope is for a bit of a football fairytale come that Sunday afternoon in mid-May when the Premier League season comes to a close. Leicester City have had a wonderful season so far, playing attractive counter-attacking football when so many other sides have played in such a dirgey fashion (I’m looking at you LVG). In Jamie Vardy they have a player in the form of his life, while in Riyad Mahrez they have a potentially world-class player.
If both can hang around until the end of the season, with not too much of a drop-off in form across their starting eleven, Leicester could well finish in the top four of the Premier League. And what an incredible story that would be – particularly given they were widely tipped (by such ill-informed people as, er, me) for relegation earlier this season.
Some predictions for 2016 to follow, probably on Hogmanay.