Sport360 journos' 2016 sporting wishes

Sport360 staff 16:47 03/01/2016
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What Sport360 writers want to see happen this year ranging from managers on the move to sorting out world cricket, a fair fight in F1 and the rise of a notorious Irish warrior.


A competitive F1 season and McLaren to get it right

The past two F1 campaigns, and particularly the last one, have been excruciatingly predictable with Mercedes dominating both the drivers’ and constructors championships. The sport desperately needs Ferrari, in particular, to take the fight to the German team and for McLaren’s misery to come to an end with Honda finally getting their act together with a competitive engine.

Tiger Woods to bounce back or accept it’s all over and quit

It is agonising to watch the fall and fall of Tiger Woods as he makes a series of comebacks from surgery only to fail time and time again and plunge down the world rankings. He remains, in my opinion, the greatest golfer to walk the planet and although he is not the type to throw in the towel without giving it his best shot it is surely time to either make what would be one of sport’s greatest comebacks or accept that he has fallen too far behind the young guns, his body can’t take any more punishment, and retire.

Jose Mourinho to prove he is still one of football’s greatest coaches

Mourinho’s sacking by Chelsea was hardly surprising but whatever you think of him it has left a void in the Premier League and world football as a whole. Although he was ultimately responsible for the spectacular implosion at Stamford Bridge he remains one of the sport’s most charismatic and talented coaches and we need him back in football as soon as possible.


France to have a successful Euro 2016

I’ll stop short of going all out for a home win but after the year they’ve endured, France needs Les Bleus to prosper this summer. Never mind the obvious joy it would bring to the nation, the World Cup win 1998 – their last major tournament on home soil – had a unifying effect and so let’s hope Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann and co. produce their best.

Atletico Madrid to keep hold of Diego Simeone

It’s only a matter of time before the Argentine receives a concrete offer from one of Europe’s big guns but it would be refreshing if it was met with a firm no. Without Simeone at the helm, Atleti – previously Spain’s biggest basketcase of a club – would be nowhere near Barca and Madrid. The man in black has impressively made Los Rojiblancos the third force and with a young and emerging squad still have much to achieve with the team.

A Tour de France that goes the distance

It’s not since Carlos Sastre’s win in 2008 that we witnessed a Tour winning margin being less than one minute. In fact, before Chris Froome’s 1min 12sec win over Nairo Quintana (above) last year, the difference between first and second had been in excess of three minutes for three straight years. With 2016 promising another strong field, it’d be brilliant to have a Tour that goes down to the final two or three stages and doesn’t become a procession.


Boxing’s biggest possible fight is made

No, I’m not talking about Mayweather v Pacquiao II – although the spectre of the veterans doing it all over again looms large in 2016. But what I’d rather see is Gennady Golovkin and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez trade leather for the right to be called the world’s pre-eminent middleweight. Both men are highly-skilled, aggressive and entertaining fighters so from a styles-perspective you’d be confident of fireworks.

Bolt cements his place as ‘The Greatest’

Usain Bolt may already go down in history as the finest athlete of all-time, but any debate would be blown out of the water should he retain his Olympic titles in Rio this summer. The world stops when the Jamaican runs and it would be a stunning achievement if he can add one final glorious chapter to his phenomenal career.

Euro 2016 delivers

The European Championship might not have the same prestige and rich history as the World Cup, but in the past has sometimes surpassed it in terms of the quality of football on offer. This summer is the first tournament where the format has been expanded from 16 to 24 teams, and while it’s nice to see minnows of international football like Wales and Iceland get their chance on the big stage, you can only hope the overall standard of the spectacle doesn’t suffer as a result.


Henrik Stenson win a major championship this year

The Swede has a special place in the hearts of fans in the UAE, having spent many years here as a resident. He is the only man in the top-five of the world rankings who has not got a major win against his name, despite contending in several of them over the final round. Not only would it give a lot of happiness to Stenson’s many fans and friends here, it would be a massive boost for Scandinavian golf as well.

Golf’s governing bodies start acting on slow play and ball specifications

The R&A and the USGA have dilly-dallied on these two issues for far too long. Slow play has become a menace in professional tournaments, and the ball needs to be reigned in because most players are now averaging more than 290 yards off the tee. The incredible length generated is turning several classic courses into nothing more than pitch-and-putt competitions.

Tiger Woods to make a comeback

I don’t even want it to be a fairytale comeback for the 14-time major champion, but just that he starts playing again without any pain. Woods has had too much of an impact on golf to go out whimpering like this. Let’s hope there is one last mighty roar left in him, and he gets closer to Jack Nicklaus’ tally of 18 major wins. If not majors, the least Woods deserves is another three PGA Tour titles to tie Sam Snead’s all-time record.


Uniform DRS system in all matches

It’s high time some sort of a decision review system is put in place on a consistent basis across formats. It should be the ICC’s prerogative to provide basic technology like stump microphone to home teams. If you take ball tracking technology out, everyone including India should be able to accept the system.

Relegation system in Tests

The shambolic performance of the West Indies Test team and the freefall of the Zimbabwe side make the case for a relegation system in Tests stronger. A face-off between the bottom two Test sides in the ICC rankings and top two associate teams every four years would spice things up.

A new sprint king

Usain Bolt is the greatest sprinter in history and there are very few who can come close to him at the moment. Even so, here’s hoping that someone – such as Trayvon Bromell or Andre De Grasse – gets to challenge the great one at the Olympics (preferably someone not tainted by doping). That would be one of the greatest sporting moments of all time.


Ons Jabeur to crack the top 100

Ever since she won Roland Garros juniors in 2011, the Tunisian has struggled to take her success to the women’s circuit. Be it injuries, or mental barriers, Jabeur – who boasts a clever attacking game of slice and dice – has come close to breaking the top-100 but hasn’t been able to cross the threshold. Only one Arab woman has ever been ranked in the top-100, Jabeur’s compatriot, Selima Sfar. It’s high time we’ve had another.

Osman to make the podium in Rio

I’d love it if Farida Osman wins a medal in the 50m butterfly. The Egyptian sprinter has led a swimming revolution back home and has made steady progress ever since she won gold at the Junior World Championships in 2011. She was fifth at Worlds this year. If Farida makes the podium in Rio, it would be huge not just for Egypt but for the entire region, showing that an Arab, Muslim, female, raised and trained here, can become one of the best swimmers in the world.

Nadal to win a 10th French Open

It would be a real shame if the last people remember of the Spaniard would be his slip in the rankings and dip in form and confidence. It would also be a shame if the greatest player to ever compete on clay ends up falling just one short of 10 French Opens. No man has ever won 10, at any major, and in simple terms, 10 trophies in Paris would be cool. Also, Nadal usually gets his confidence from performing well on clay, so should he win in Paris, it would help raise his level for the rest of the year.


Not to see Mayweather back in the ring

When Floyd Mayweather retired a weight was lifted off boxing’s shoulders. The best no longer fought the best as fighters feared losing their money-shot at Mayweather. Now, there are new stars to be excited about, let’s not take the attention away from the likes of Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez.

Conor McGregor to hold two belts

McGregor is the UFC’s biggest enemy right now. He’s a fighter with all the leverage in the world and is willing, quite rightly, to use that to squeeze every penny he can out of the promotion. That and his lack of care for weight classes will cause tension with Dana White. He said it right from the start he wanted to replicate his Cage Warriors feat of holding two belts simultaneously. Unprecedented in the UFC, it would herald a new era.

Pep Guardiola in the Premier League

English clubs may not attract the biggest stars quite like they used to but in terms of managers, it would have the world’s very best in the business on the touchline. His combination of charisma and glamour would revive any three of the Premier League’s biggest institutions: Man City, Man United and Chelsea.


A playoffs to remember

The NBA playoffs to feature intriguing match-ups (Cleveland v Miami, San Antonio v Golden State) before a Finals where both teams are at full strength would be pure entertainment. LeBron James having to go through his former team would be great theatre, while the level of play will be at its absolute highest if the Spurs and Warriors cross paths, which seems inevitable as of now.

For no scandal or controversy to hit the NFL during the playoffs

I already somewhat struggle to enjoy a sport that pits people against each other in a violent, Gladiator-like fashion, I don’t need constant reminding of cheating, drug, alcohol or physical abuse to make me question my enjoyment any further. There will undoubtedly be something that comes up this year, but hopefully the playoffs can be a time for drama to unfold strictly on the field and not off it.

For a woman to finally become coach/manager in a major professional sport

We’ve come far as a society, but we still have a way to go when it comes to racial and gender equality. The San Antonio Spurs received a lot of credit for bringing in Becky Hammon as an assistant coach in 2014 and yet, over a year and a half later, we’ve still not had a woman named head coach. An end to the archaic way of thinking is overdue.


Memphis Depay to show his class at Manchester United

The Dutch youngster hasn’t had the best of starts at Old Trafford since his £19million move from PSV Eindhoven but certainly has the quality to show why he is worthy of the famous number seven jersey. Just needs one good performance and his confidence can grow.

Any other team to win the F1 title apart from Mercedes

Let’s face it, the team is strong but it’s boring for the sport if Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg continue dominating.

Roger Federer to win another grand slam

Last year, the Swiss was playing outstanding tennis, winning six ATP titles but could not clinch his 18th major due to the brilliance of Novak Djokovic. Hopefully, his time will come in 2016 and be rewarded with his persistence.


Ireland to win a hat-trick of Six Nations titles

Joe Schmidt’s men may not have achieved their goal of reaching the semi-finals at the Rugby World Cup, but what a honour it would be to capture a third consecutive Six Nations title. Keep an eye out for young guns Garry Ringrose – nominated for World Rugby Junior Player of the Year in 2014 – and Josh van der Flier, both of whom are expected to win a first cap next month.

Battle for golf’s number one

When looking back on the 2015 season Jordan Spieth was the most successful player winning two Majors. Rory McIlroy, though, is the most talented but injury curtailed his progress, while Jason Day achieved the highest peak in performance over the calendar year. Expect another competitive campaign with McIlroy to reclaim top spot.

Conor McGregor to fight in Croke Park

The Dublin man has taken the country by storm since his featherweight title triumph in Las Vegas last month. For Conor to fulfil his dream of fighting in front of home fans at the 82,000-capacity Croke Park stadium would prove a massive coup for not only the UFC but for the passionate Irish supporters who’ve followed his progress since the early days of his career.

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