2013 was another great year for British sport, crowned - of course - by Andy Murray finally ending the 77-year wait for a British Mens' Singles Champion at Wimbledon. In football, England nervously managed qualification for the World Cup and in the cricket, they retained the Ashes at home, before surrendering them down under.
But 2014 promises to be an even bigger year in sport with two major championships taking place. We take a peek into our crystal ball and put our reputations on the line by making a few predictions for the coming 12 months. Let's see how we get on...
1. England Will Go Out in the Second Round in Brazil
Not our opinion, but the prediction of ShortList readers on a recent poll on this site. However, nearly as many of you think we'll make it to the quarter-finals and, for our money, this would represent a major achievement given the myriad obstacles in England's way: the heat and humidity; a tough group featuring Uruguay and Italy; the perennial lack of a winter break meaning we'll almost certainly turn up tired; and the lack of depth in our squad. However, the Second Round sounds about right - Hodgson has the tactical nous to get us through that group, but perhaps no further. Of course, we'd love to be proved wrong, but we're not getting our hopes up. Oh no, not again. Definitely not...well, maybe...
2. But The World Cup Will Still Be Amazing
Regardless of England's performance, any World Cup is special and where better than football's spiritual home of Brazil to host it. Of course, FIFA will undoubtedly try everything they can to ruin it (let's have one every two years shall we? Actually, let's not) and the alleged corruption and safety issues in the run-up mean that the atmosphere has the potential to turn sour, but once it's underway, we can't see such a football-mad country not basking in the festival and creating an unforgettable event. In the UK, the group game kick off times of 5pm, 8pm and 11pm will leave fans salivating at 6 hour football feasts. Get your barbecues ready and count down the days.
3. Andy Murray Will Win Wimbledon Again
Well he's our man of 2013, the monkey is well and truly off his back, and Wimbledon suits his game better than anywhere else. Why not? Well, obviously there's the two main obstacles of Mr Djokovic and Mr Nadal (not to mention Mr Federer), and the recurrence of his injury worries, but he's back on the court already, so there's plenty of time to get his game back up to the required standard. He can go out and play without worry, with the vociferous crowd behind him and safe in the knowledge that he is the man to beat. We're backing him for further glory.
4. England Will Have a Cricketing Year of Transition
The Ashes down under was a truly chastening experience for English cricket fans, as a seemingly inferior team routinely wiped the floor with Alistair Cook's men. Just six months on from having a settled side, a confident captain and a respected backroom staff, all of these aspects are now under close scrutiny. The exodus has already started, with Graeme Swann departing mid-tour and further changes are now inevitable. Andy Flower is staying, so Graham Gooch is likely to depart as batting coach, Carberry, Root and Bresnan's places are under threat, there are question marks over Pietersen, Anderson and Prior, and Cook will need a good start to retain the captaincy - although there are few obvious alternatives. Two early season tests against Sri Lanka in solid English conditions should offer a good opportunity to look at new faces, but a five-test series against India could be very tough indeed. We're going for a win against Sri Lanka with the ball swinging about, and a draw against the Indians.
5. Henrik Stenson to be the world’s number one golfer
While we’re not saying Tiger Woods is past it - currently back on top at number one ranking following five wins last year, the man’s odds-on for his first major victory since 2008’s US Open – there’s no reason his position can’t be usurped. So who better to swipe it than Swedish hotshot Henrick Stenson? A regular on the European Tour, the Swede’s recent form has been nothing short of remarkable, with a historic double in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup and the European Tour’s Race To Dubai, not to mention a runners-up prize at The Open Championship, rocketing him up to third in the world rankings. Could we be witnessing the emergence of a new great? We certainly think so.
6. England Will win the Six Nations
2013 was a good year for dragons. Not just those in boobs and swords epic Game Of Thrones, of course, but the Red Dragons, Welsh rugby’s finest. Along with winning their second Six Nations in a row and being so bold as to finish with the top points scorer (Leigh Halfpenny) and top try scorer (Alex Cuthbert), the Welsh contingent of the British and Irish Lions also steamrolled over Australia. We can’t say the same about 2014, mind, what with Wales having injury concerns, including star centre Jonathan Davies. England, however, are coming of age under coach Stuart Lancaster, putting them as firm favourites in our book. That being said, we’d be fools to ever write off France – particularly the year before a World Cup.
7. Mo Farah Will Win The London Marathon
Britain's double Olympic and World Championship hero has finally made the move to the ultimate distance and will, fittingly, debut at 26.2 miles in London in April. He gave a tantalising glimpse of his talents at this distance by running half the course in 2013 before bowing out and looked comfortable amongst the frontrunners. We simply cannot see him not succeeding on his home streets. Why? Obviously there's his well-documented achievements at 5,000m and 10,000m. But there's also his astonishing claiming of the European record for 1500m in July - a distance he'd never run before. He took the UK record for the half-marathon at the Great North Run in September - albeit losing out in a narrow finish. But this is the one he's been aiming for - and Mo rarely finishes second when he really wants to win.
8. Warrington Wolves to gain revenge in The Super League
Ahead of this season, don’t be expecting a repeat Challenge Cup/Super League double from Wigan Warriors. They may even beat Sydney Roosters to claim the World Club Cup in mid-February but there will be one palpable difference to the side this time around: no Sam Tomkins. Now plying his trade for another brand of Warriors in New Zealand, the livewire 24-year-old fullback’s creativity will be sorely missed in Lancashire, while, conversely, Warrington Wolves, whose second place finish in the table and eventual Grand Final loss to Wigan at Old Trafford will have them hungry for reprisal, have bolstered their squad. As for dark horses, look no further than Wakefield Trinity Wildcats following their recent signing of Samoa international half-back Pita Godinet from the NRL.
9. Formula One Should Be Interesting Again
Sebastian Vettel dominated F1 in 2013, winning his fourth consecutive championship but, such was his overwhelming superiority, he had to suffer the ignominy of being booed on the podium several times by fans unhappy at his procession to victory. Well, as ever in this sport, Bernie Ecclestone wasn't going to settle for that, so a host of rule changes will be coming in, in an attempt to liven things up. There'll be huge changes to the chassis regulations as well as the engines - arguably the biggest rule alternations in a generation. In addition, if Bernie has his way, the much-criticised double-point rule for the final race in Abu Dhabi will be retained - and possibly even be joined by the two races beforehand. If it gets thrown out, you can be sure something else will be brought in to try and end the Vettel dominance - and that could make for a tremendously exciting season ahead.
10. The Commonwealth Games Will Captivate The Nation
OK - so it's not the Olympics. And a few famous faces will probably be missing - likely among them the marathon-running Mo Farah and definitely among them the retired Sir Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton and Rebecca Adlington (indeed 16% of team GB quit sport or retired after London 2012) - but the Glasgow Commonwealth Games should still be a tremendous spectacle. Indeed, an event happening away from the traditional power centre of London always gets the regional spirit going - witness the Manchester games in 2002 - and if ever there's an area with an enormous sense of civic pride, it's Glasgow. Demand for tickets has been huge, with 2.3m applications for 1m spots, so there'll be no shortage of atmosphere in the stadiums. New heroes will be found, and the Scots contingent - including medal hope gymnast Dan Purvis (above) will be roared on like never before.