There will be a new winner of the World Cup

The World Cup in Qatar is a bad idea for a number of well-documented reasons.
It has only been won by eight national teams: Brazil, Germany, Italy, Argentina, France, Uruguay, England and Spain.
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However, this year could be the year a new winner emerges. The reason? One of the less serious reasons why the World Cup in Qatar is a bad reason is the November scheduling. However, that scheduling will be a greater leveller.
The majority of the players who play for the nations that would be considered favourites will be playing through a European footballing calendar and will turn up at the tournament knackered and with a distinct lack of preparation opening the door for a less fancied team to go all the way.
Marcus Foley

Lionel Messi brings it home for Argentina

Who was the most impressive international team in 2021? European champions Italy perhaps? Or how about Canada, who moved up the men's rankings more than any other team? In fact, there's a pretty good argument to be had that it was, in fact, Argentina.
The rebuild under Lionel Scaloni is now complete after he and Pablo Aimar were named as caretakers following a disappointing 2018 World Cup campaign. A tournament they faced a late scare to qualify for, ending up 13 points behind table-toppers Brazil. Now that gap to their arch-rivals is down to just six points and both teams are unbeaten and are already qualified for Qatar with five games to go. Something that was previously unthinkable for a team as inconsistent as Argentina.
But the real crowning glory came with the success at the 2021 Copa America, finally giving Messi an international trophy for his resume. And with so many unknowns about the 2022 World Cup, why couldn't it be Argentina? Scaloni has found a way to maximise Messi and appears to have finally found some stability in the defence. Why not indeed?
Pete Sharland

Novak Djokovic will be supplanted as the world's best tennis player

With Roger Federer facing another lengthy spell out with a knee injury which will rule him out of the Australian Open, French Open and possibly Wimbledon, and Rafael Nadal nowhere near his best either, Novak Djokovic has little competition in the race to 21 Grand Slams from his fellow rivals in the GOAT stakes.
However, 2021 witnessed the confirmation that the next generation has arrived in the form of Daniil Medvedev, a US Open winner, and Alex Zverev, who claimed Olympics gold and the ATP Finals crown. Both men will be eyeing up the No. 1 spot in the ATP rankings in a year when Djokovic is expected to narrow his focus to the big ones.
But either Medvedev or Zverev could easily claim the opening Grand Slam of the year in Australia too, and both have shown now that they are capable of beating Djokovic on the very biggest occasions.
After the Nole Slam fell at the final hurdle in Flushing Meadows, in a year dominated by Djokovic, 2022 could have a very different complexion. My bold prediction is not that Djokovic won't win a Grand Slam (he surely will), but that between them, Zverev and Medvedev will carry off more, and one of the two will reach the top of the ATP Rankings.
For the first time since Federer ascended to the top of tennis in 2004, someone other than the Big Three (plus Andy Murray) will be the best men's tennis player in the world.
Tom Adams

Finally a home singles favourite will triumph at Australian Open

Pat Rafter never quite achieved it, nor did Sam Stosur, nor even former Wimbledon champion Lleyton Hewitt. When Ashleigh Barty lost to Karolina Muchova in the quarter-finals in February, the drought for a local Australian Open singles title extended to the 44th year.
Expectation and excitement are never insignificant when Barty appears at Melbourne Park; even footage of her hitting on Rod Laver Arena with Stosur this week had many eagerly posting predictions on social media.

Home favourite Barty hits on Rod Laver Arena ahead of 2022 Australian Open

But this really will be the year that the Queenslander from Ipswich finally triumphs in front of her adoring home crowd. Defending champion Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep are among the stars poised to return for the first Grand Slam of the upcoming season, but Barty is all-too-easily overlooked.
The 25-year-old remains the world No. 1 from September 2019 and won Wimbledon in a campaign in 2021 that should be getting far more credit than it has done. She also reached the last four at Melbourne Park in 2020.
With crowns at both Roland Garros and SW19, there is no doubt about Barty's ultimate goal, and this could very well be the year when it is finally realised.
Dan Quarrell

Djokovic, Nadal and Federer won’t win another Slam – in 2022 and beyond

“But Novak Djokovic almost won all four Grand Slams last year. What on earth are you on about?”
It’s a fair question. But it feels we’re finally at that elusive moment in men’s tennis: the changing of the guard. And sure, we’ve probably said that on 15 other occasions, but this time it’s actually happening. We can sadly write off Roger Federer due to his recent 40th birthday party and permanently injured knee, while Rafael Nadal is only really in the overall conversation because clay exists – a surface he is no longer guaranteed titles on.
Djokovic is the hardest to tear down, especially after his Golden Slam near-miss, but we’ve seen with Serena Williams how the pressure to get the outright record of Slams can wear even the greatest down. Much will depend on whether Djokovic rocks up in Melbourne… but even if he does, it feels like we’re on the cusp of a new, and unavoidably much less exciting, ‘small three’ era of Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Ben Snowball

Osaka will get back to world No. 1

It was less than a year ago that Naomi Osaka won the 2021 Australian Open at a canter, firming up her status as the best hard-court player around. So impressive was Osaka that Eurosport’s Mats Wilander predicted that she will win “10 Grand Slams, minimum”.
Much has changed since her fourth major win; a French Open withdrawal to focus on her mental health, lighting the cauldron at her home Olympics in Tokyo, an “indefinite break” from tennis after her US Open title defence ended in the third round.

Two-time champion Osaka gears up for defence of her Australian Open title

Osaka has played just three tournaments since June, winning four matches and losing three. She has slipped down to No. 13 in the world rankings and could fall further if she suffers an early exit in Melbourne.
But if she comes back refreshed and revitalised from her break then there’s every chance she could become the dominant force in tennis again. Women’s tennis, which is not blessed with too many electrifying rivalries right now, would certainly benefit from having a strong Osaka back on tour. Who doesn't want to see some high-quality Osaka v Ashleigh Barty clashes in 2022?
James Walker-Roberts

Guardiola finally leads City to Champions League promise land

It’s ridiculous how much Pep Guardiola’s Champions League record is used as a stick to beat him considering he’s already won the damn thing twice!
But since his Barcelona side’s near perfect performance at Wembley in 2011, things haven’t gone quite so smoothly in the competition for Pep’s teams be it through the brilliance of the opposition or his own tactical self-sabotage.
That will surely, finally, change this year. At the time of writing, City are a relentless winning machine domestically – even when not at their best - while their rivals are stuttering.
Equally, it must be acknowledged that aside from perhaps Guardiola’s former side Bayern Munich, the Champions League field is perhaps the weakest it has been for a long time with nobody, on paper, as good as this City side which should be gunning for the final as a minimum.
In the end, it all falls on the man in charge who has surely learned not to gamble on his tactics again after those costly selection errors against Lyon and Chelsea in the last two years.
Ibrahim Mustapha
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