Each of the Sport360 writers list three things they would want to see happen this year.
What are your three sporting wishes for 2017?
JAMES PIERCY, DEPUTY EDITOR
Infantino’s 48-team World Cup idea to be rejected
International football is in a dangerous place at the moment, as the increased strength of the domestic game only increases the pressure on global competitions to deliver the spectacle they profess to always be.
Gianni Infantino’s idea of a 48team World Cup for 2026 is driven solely by finance and will only seek to increase apathy towards the very part of the game FIFA seek to protect. Fingers crossed it’s voted against at this month’s FIFA Council
Australia and South Africa to get their act together
As brilliant as the All Blacks were in last season’s Rugby Championship there was a certain emptiness about the tournament due to how awful the Wallabies and Springboks were.
Michael Cheika seems to have figured a few things out with Australia over the autumn and they should improve this summer but Allister Coetzee’s listless Boks are a real concern. The sport will only suﬀer if they continue to be this inept.
A memorable NBA playoﬀs with the trilogy it deserves
Already it seems accurate to state the NBA finals will be, Warriors v Cavs: Part 3 – but I’m okay with that; they’re by far the two best teams and it’ll be a brilliant and historic match-up for a third straight year with the scores at 1-1.
However, what would also be fantastic is for both teams to really to have to work in getting there. No fourgame series, please.
REEM ABULLEIL, NEWS EDITOR
Egypt qualifies for the 2018 FIFA World Cup
Enough is enough. It’s been 27 years since Egypt’s last appearance in the World Cup finals and it’s time this bizarre complex comes to an end once and for all. Hector Cuper’s side have made a great start to their third round qualifying campaign and just need to avoid any home disasters to advance.
Juan Martin del Potro to win a grand slam
You’d have to have a heart of stone not to have got emotional when Del Potro won Olympic silver and the Davis Cup last season.
Coming back from a career-threatening injury, the Argentine pulled oﬀ one gutsy performance after another to remind us all why we love him so much. Is it too soon to hope for a second grand slam for DelPo? I don’t think so.
A healthy and competitive ‘Big Four’
We’re edging closer and closer to a time where one or more members of the ‘Big Four’ – Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray – will bid farewell to the sport. Before that happens, I’d love to see all four of them healthy and in good form this season.
Just imagine a competitive ‘Big Four’ fighting oﬀ the onslaught from youngsters like Dominic Thiem and Nick Kyrgios. It would make for epic scenes.
ALEX REA, SUB EDITOR
Battle of Britain between Khan and Brook
A world title on the line between two of Britain’s premier boxers with the added backdrop of a simmering feud waiting to boil over. Make this fight, above all others, happen in 2017. The initial talks between the two camps are positive but then how many times have we heard that?
For MMA fighters to finally unionise
Just as one step forward is made, two steps back have swiftly followed. The political in-fighting between various groups trying organise MMA fighters to create a union or association has been counter productive.
Hopefully this year will the see the momentum shift and the sport finally evolve to see fighters paid what they deserve.
For Ronaldo to stop taking free-kicks
Undoubtedly a massive ask, but I can’t bear the thought of having to spend another year watching Cristiano Ronaldo go through his usual melodramatic routine before inevitably smashing one straight into the wall.
Gareth Bale is a far superior set-piece taker, please, step aside for the Welsh wizard.
Dimitri Payet has a superior free-kick conversion rate to both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. pic.twitter.com/SpLSR3mGPR— Uber West Ham (@UberWestHam) September 22, 2016
AJIT VIJAYKUMAR, ASSISTANT NEWS EDITOR
Amicable solution to the BCCI mess
The tussle between the Supreme Court and the Indian cricket board will reach an end soon this year. I hope that while the BCCI, led by Anurag Thakur, is forced to clean up its mess, it is not asked to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
If the BCCI is forced to disband its entire structure and almost every major office bearer ends up ousted, it is likely to be a killer blow for Indian and maybe even world cricket.
Smooth transition of captaincy
It’s a critical year for England Test skipper Alastair Cook and India’s limited overs captain MS Dhoni. Both have dynamic players in Joe Root and Virat Kohli eyeing their captain’s spot.
While Cook’s position is under a greater threat, Dhoni is on firmer footing. But even so, if the next in line do take over, I hope Cook and Dhoni are allowed to perform as specialist players and with total freedom as they have a lot to oﬀer.
Alistair Cook has been named as Captain, in the ICC team for 2016 (not watched Indian Tour clearly)— Ian Abrahams (Moose) (@BroadcastMoose) December 22, 2016
Day-night Tests in subcontinent
It’s time for pink ball Tests to be played where it can make a big impact – on the subcontinent. Teams like India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh must try it out because the potential is immense and Tests in the region really need a substantial crowd boost to compete with T20 fervour.
DENZIL PINTO, REPORTER
The UAE to qualify for the 2018 World Cup
The Whites find themselves in a goodvposition to reach Russia in 18 months time and with Mahdi Ali boasting The Golden Generation squad, their chances of playing in a World Cup has never been better.
Japan, Australia and Saudi Arabia will have other ideas but it would be a magnificent story if Omar Abdulrahman and Co achieve their long-awaited dream.
Al Jazira to maintain their revival under Ten Cate
The last half of 2016 has been nothing short of remarkable for Al Jazira. Henk Ten Cate has worked wonders since taking the reins, turning them from a struggling outfit to President’s Cup winners and joint-leaders of the AGL today.
Now in the knockout of Arabian Gulf Cup and President’s Cup, I hope they can maintain their good start as their resurgence can only be good for UAE football with more clubs outside Al Ain and Al Ahli challenging for honours.
Serena to beat Court’s Slam record
With 22 titles to her name, every year there’s talk of whether Serena Williams can overtake Margaret Court’s all-time 24 grand slam mark. She can end that discussion this time round. Despite being 35, she still remains a threat and when at the top of her game, is virtually impossible to beat.
ALAM KHAN, CORRESPONDENT
Fury to return and do what he does best
Tyson Fury to return to the ring after battling his demons and depression – and provide some colour and craziness to the heavyweight boxing scene again.
For all the qualities of Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko, another period of predictability will do little good for the division and frustrate fans who crave excitement and entertainment.
A Lions series that goes the distance
A series that highlights that this really is a battle between the very best.
Two wins since their last – and only – series success in 1971 is not good enough for the British and Irish Lions against the dominant All Blacks, and Warren Gatland will have to put that right with arguably the most exciting squad of players at the disposal of the coach.
Pakistan to host international cricket
The security situation to improve enough to allow international teams to play in Pakistan. No country can currently be described as being 100 per cent safe, without problems or fears, and it’s sad that cricket-loving fans – in need of hope and happiness – have been deprived since 2009.
What’s the point in being the best if you can’t share the magical moments with your own. Sport lifts a nation.
ANDY WEST, CORRESPONDENT
Spain to continue to dominate in Europe
As Spanish football correspondent, I feel rather smug about the fact that you have to go back nearly four years to find the last non-Spanish winners of the Europa or Champions League. I’m hopeful that the success of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Sevilla will be matched again this season – Villarreal and Atletico’s turn?
The Miami Dolphins to a win a playoﬀ game
I am a long-suﬀering Miami Dolphins fan – a consequence of starting to watch the NFL fan when Dan Marino was in his prime. The last few years have been exceptionally bleak, but now we are finally back in the playoﬀs. Winning Superbowl would be incredible, but I’ll settle for just one playoﬀ victory.
Djokovic to return to his very best
Many people don’t particularly like Novak Djokovic, but I was saddened by his loss of form during 2016. The Serb is an awesome performer, and if he can get back to his best in an attempt to dislodge the ever-improving Andy Murray, we could witness some titanic battles between them.
STEVE BRENNER, CORRESPONDENT
FIFA to play nice… just this once
Please can we have 12 months of FIFA and their friends who govern the most popular sport on earth playing by the rules and not heaping shame on everyone with their greedy, gluttonous, cynical, self-serving, money grabbing ways? Just one year of being good. It’s not too much to ask, is it?
More marquee match-ups in boxing
The best need to fight the best in 2017. With Anthony Joshua and Vladimir Klitschko already booked in for March, the bar has already been set high.
Yet the clamour for Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez will be become deafening if nothing happens soon. I’d be amazed if Golden Boy risk their prized asset with GGG but here’s hoping.
NFL to wake up to issues of concussion
This has to be the year when the NFL are held accountable or at least begin to take responsibility for the tragic eﬀects of concussion many of their current and former players endure from playing the game. The evidence is there for all to see. The NFL suits cannot bury their heads in the sand for much longer.
NIALL MCCAGUE, ONLINE JOURNALIST
McIlroy to climb back to golf’s summit
Seeing Rory McIlroy return as the best golfer in the world sits top of my list. The Hollywood man is the perfect role model for any youngster and – aside from his all-round class and four Major wins – he conducts himself in a superb manner oﬀ the course.
Rory McIlroy's 10 best Protracer shots of 2016 🚀 pic.twitter.com/QFlhx9Y94q— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) December 17, 2016
An open F1 title race
With the vacant Mercedes seat yet to filled after Nico Rosberg’s retirement from Formula One, it would be exciting to finally see a strong challenger to Mercedes’ dominance in the Constructors’ Championship. Can Red Bull or Ferrari step up or will Toto Wolﬀ and Co. be celebrating a fourth successive title?
Bayern Munich win the Champions League
It’s only three years since their last Champions League triumph, but I’d love to see Bayern Munich win Europe’s most prestigious club competition for a sixth time. Barcelona will obviously pose an immense threat, but Carlo Ancelotti’s men can take confidence from how they’ve performed so far this season.
STUART APPLEBY, ONLINE JOURNALIST
Federer to land just one more grand slam
An 18th Grand Slam title for Roger Federer. Tennis fans the world-over want to see the Swiss legend fit, healthy and competing at the top of the game again in 2017. Age is against him but what about one last hurrah?
ICC to give the bowlers a chance
A more even playing field between bat and ball in all forms of international cricket. Heavier bats have meant more runs and records but spare a thought for the bowlers. There’s not an obvious solution but the ICC needs to implement some tighter regulation this year.
Players to stop leaning on agents so much
Less interference from football agents. Okay, this will probably never happen now but it would be nice to see players taking more responsibility for their next moves and careers, instead of being swayed by their representative’s quest for more cash.
What a way to start the New Year for Corey Anderson and the New Zealand cricket team.
On this day three years ago, Anderson smashed a century off just 36 balls in Queenstown to break Shahid Afridi’s record for quickest ODI hundred.
Even though it was in a shortened match against West Indies, Anderson couldn’t be stopped as he reached his fifty in 20 balls.
Sitting on 95 at the start of the 18th over, he wasted little time by clobbering Nikita Miller’s ball for a six, one of his 14 maximums on the day, which was two behind Rohit Sharma’s record.
Anderson’s mark would stand for over a year before AB de Villiers broke through with a 31-ball ton in January 2015.
Other memorable events that took place on this day
1838: The first official horse race in South Australia-Adelaide is held.
1909: Robert Fowler runs the marathon in a world record time of 2:52:45.4 at the Empire City Marathon in Yonkers, New York.
1948: Don Bradman scores 132 against India at the MCG.
1982: No.1 ranked Clemson beats No4 Nebraska 22-15 in the Orange Bowl to win the national title.
There are few hitters in Major League Baseball history better than ‘Hammerin’ Hank’.
The American, who was born on this day in 1911, carved out a Hall of Fame career despite serving with the military during World War II.
Greenberg played 12 of his 13 seasons in the majors with the Detroit Tigers, with whom he was a member of four World Series teams, including two which won championships (1935 and 1945).
He was also a five-time All-Star, a two-time MVP in 1935 and 1940 and led the American League in home runs in four seasons.
Greenberg remains the AL record-holder for most runs batted in for a single season by a right-handed hitter with 183 in 1937, which came in a 154-game season.
The Tigers retired his No5 jersey and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1956. Greenberg died at the age of 75 in 1986.
Other sport stars born on this day
1972: Lilian Thuram, World Cup-winning full-back who is the most capped player in French history (45).
1985: Steven Davis, Northern Irish footballer who plays as a midfielder for Premier League club Southampton (32).
1986: Glen Davis, American basketball player who played for Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic and LA Clippers (31).
1992: Jack Wilshere, English footballer who is a midfielder for Bournemouth and the England national team (25).