Remember when Germany put a brackets-worthy 7 (SEVEN) past Brazil in the World Cup semi finals? That was odd and certainly nothing anybody could have predicted. Hell, predicting sport in general is a tough business, but never ones to shirk a challenge we're doing just that with our 2015 sporting forecasts. Best not to wager a single penny on any of them, mind you.
Manchester United Will Win The Premier League
Brace yourselves. The unthinkable has become the, umm, thinkable. At the time of writing Man Utd have chalked up six wins and a draw in the last seven, their keeper is the best in the league (and is responsible for one of the best hashtags of 2014) and their manager is showing the sort of authority in press conferences that Fergie did, but with the charisma of Mourinho. United, who finished 22 points adrift of the champions Manchester City in seventh place last season, are back in the running and burning the turbos.
England will win the Six Nations
It'll be a great battle between England and Wales on the opening day that could be a really integral element to the overall outcome. Bookies have England as favourites (15/8) and Wales as third favourites with odds of about 3/1. Both secured impressive wins in late November against Australia and South Africa respectively, but England have the added bonus of welcoming back injured Manu Tuilagi, Dan Cole, Tom Croft, Alex Corbisiero, Tom Youngs, Geoff Parling, Luther Burrell and Joe Launchbury by the time the event kicks off. Plus rugby league success story Sam Burgess could be an option after his move into the union code. All-in-all we make them too strong for Wales and other favourites Ireland, but only just.
But will lose the rugby World Cup final, to the Kiwis.
With Wales possibly falling at the group stage and Scotland rolling out heroically in the quarters against old enemy England, we reckon it'll be down to the English to keep the trophy on these shores. Post-Scotland we forecast they'll have a right old ding-dong against Ireland in the semis, squeezing through thanks to the boot of Ford (not Farrell), before a tantalising final against New Zealand. Unfortunately for England fans, New Zealand are roughly [gets out calculator] three points better than England, as evidenced quite well by the three point beating the Kiwis gave them in November. England will win it in 2019, mind you. But we're getting ahead of ourselves...
Lewis Hamilton Will Retain The Formula 1 Championship
Remember not so long ago when Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull's dominance made F1 one of the dullest sports on Earth? Hurrah for that being over. Double hurrah for Lewis Hamilton being the catalyst. He looks set to sign a new money contract with Mercedes and recently said: “I feel like this is just the beginning. What this team has put together is something incredibly special." Jenson Button thinks so too: "I am sure Mercedes are going to have an unbelievable package again next year," he said. "Everything is in place for them to win another one.” Anyone else backing Lewis? Oh yes, Jackie Stewart: "He’s a young man, so he has many more years in the sport and I think we are going to see even greater things from him."
Who are we to argue?
Kei Nishikori to win Wimbledon (Men's)
Speaking of dull sports getting an injection of excitement, tennis had a good 2014. Since the Aussie Open in 2005 Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray have won every major title except for Juan Martin del Potro's win at the 2009 US Open. This year the new batch stood up to be counted. Younger guns like Marin Cilic, Milos Raonic, Grigor Dimitrov and current 5th ranked Japanese superstar Kei Nishikori came to the fore. The big four aren't getting any younger and obviously we'd love Murray to win Wimbledon, but realistically we think his trainer shake-up means the consistency isn't there. As for Kei Nishikori, well he's trained by Michael Chang no less, and his results recently have been mind-blowing, with his trip to the US Open finals likely to be the first of many. The bookies disagree (most have him at a lengthy 25/1 on a Wimbledon crown), but we think the tide has turned in Men's tennis and will continue to do so in 2015. You heard it here first. Now let's never talk of it again.
Simona Halep to win wimbledon (Women's)
Serena Williams is 33. Thirty three! Surely this is her last season in the game and although she'll be looking to go out on a high (in fact, she's said as much) we've got this year pinned to Halep. The Romanian has had a considerable rise from almost nowhere, earning the 2013's Most Improved accolade before adding to that success in 2014 by making the WTA third ranked spot her own. She narrowly lost to Maria Sharapova in a thrilling French Open and reached the final at the WTA Finals last month. In 2014 she also chalked up a 6-0, 6-2 destruction of Serena (the number one ranked player's heaviest defeat since 1998, when she was 16) which also ended Williams’ 15-match winning streak. Halep was ranked 47 in the world two years ago. You sense there's more to come.
Liverpool will win the Capital One Cup
As their Premier League season gets progressively worse, Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has a Capital One Cup semi final against Chelsea and he has described the tournament as "a priority", something it certainly isn't for (at the time of writing) the championship leaders he faces in January. Suffice to say Liverpool have form in the league cup. They've won it a record-breaking eight times, most recently in 2012. They have also contested the most finals (11) and semi-finals (14). Plus, with Raheem Sterling re-finding scoring form having been given a more central role, and putting Bournemouth to the sword in the quarters, Rodgers' goal drought question may well be answered. For our money they'll have to battle it out with Spurs who made short shrift of Newcastle with a 4-0 win, but they will overcome the North Londoners.
Real Madrid will win the Champions League... Again
As we all know, machines are smarter than humans, so when the geniuses behind Football Manager run the 16 teams left in the Champions League through their frighteningly smart simulator, you have no choice but to respect the outcome. Their algorithms suggest Man City will roll out in their next fixture while Arsenal will be beaten by Bayern 5-3 on aggregate in the quarters. Bayern then put Chelsea to the sword in the semis (2-1 agg) but are bested (3-2) by current champs Real in the final. Full rundown here.
England will win the Ashes
Hardly going out on a limb here, being as there's only two teams involved, but allow us to show you our working anyway. After the humiliating 5-0 whitewash in the last series the English are going to be seriously pumped up. An ageing Aussie team won't be able to lean so heavily on thirty somethings Chris Rogers, Brad Haddin and Ryan Harris, with Rogers (pictured) in particular likely to be a huge loss. He will turn 38 a week after the Ashes series and so, surely, can't be Australia's leading run-scorer as he was in the 2013 and 2013-14 series combined. Plus England have youth coming through the ranks and have pinched Australia's hottest prospect: Sam Robson. The Sydney-born Middlesex batsman has an English mother and has committed to the green and pleasant land. Expect him to play a major role.
Jordan Spieth to Win The Open
This guy is good. Really good. "It was the best I've ever played," said the 21-year-old American, of his flawless round at the Australian Open last month. He fired a course-record 63 in the final round to win by six shots, which included eight birdies. Top ranked McIlroy was miles behind and was so impressed he tweeted this:
You could give me another 100 rounds today at The Australian and I wouldn't sniff 63.... Well done @JordanSpieth very impressive!— Rory Mcilroy (@McIlroyRory) November 30, 2014
2015 will be the year of the Spieth.