It has always been in our nature as humans to look forwards, to ponder future exertions. It is perfectly normal for us to think ahead to what tomorrow may hold, even if today has barely even concluded. As any diligent student (not necessarily including myself!) will attest, no sooner has a demanding assignment been wrapped up and sent off before you start contemplating the next looming deadline, whether that be an essay, presentation, or exam. The world of sport is no different. Of course, 2018 has been a vintage year for all of us sporting diehards, providing us with memories that will last a lifetime. However, as the year draws to a close it’s only right that our attention be turned to the looming spectre of 2019 and all the promise it holds in a sporting sense — what a mouthwatering year we have in store.
To begin with it is only right to analyse the world championships taking place in major sports across the year. The eighth FIFA Women’s World Cup will be held throughout June and July in France and promises to be the biggest edition of the tournament thus far. Phil Neville’s England will hope to go better than their impressive semi-final finish in 2015 but will face a stiff challenge from the likes of the USA and Germany. Scotland will also be making their debut in the competition; indeed they are the first Scottish senior side to qualify for a global tournament since the men’s team back in 1998.
Perhaps the most followed sporting event of 2019 will be the Rugby World Cup, taking place next autumn for the first time ever in a developing rugby nation — Japan. New Zealand are once again strong favourites to record a third consecutive title. However they have been dealt a tough hand by being placed in the same group as arch rivals South Africa and will need all their wits about them to claim another crown. All of the British nations have reasons to feel quietly confident about their chances and the upcoming Six Nations in February and March will provide a far clearer picture of where each team is at ahead of the tournament properly getting underway.
Also, for the first time in 20 years, the Men’s ICC Cricket World Cup will return to English shores. The revamped 10-team tournament takes place early next summer, almost certainly ensuring there will be a drastic decrease in the one-sided affairs that became a staple of the early rounds of previous, more inclusive, editions of the tournament. England has been the standout side in this format since the last World Cup in 2015 and, boasting home field advantage, will go in as clear favourites to lift their first ever world championship. The likes of India, however, will no doubt provide the sternest test possible while Pakistan, who proved how dangerous they can be on their day in the 2017 Champions Trophy, cannot be ruled out. It is not an exaggeration to say that 2019 will constitute the biggest summer of cricket in English history: on top of hosting a World Cup they also play Australia in a bid to regain the Ashes they relinquished so meekly last winter. If ever there were a better time for the English Cricket Board to attempt to win back new disciples to a game whose popularity has stagnated in this nation recently, it would appear to be now.
Turning to the football club scene, it is true that the Premier League, after a series of processional title races, is shaping up to be a genuinely intriguing contest this time out. Never before have three teams remained unbeaten this far into the season, yet Chelsea, Liverpool and leaders Manchester City are, and they all have designs on taking the title back this May. The picture at the bottom of the table appears equally murky. Across Europe too, in particular Germany and Spain, established clubs have found the going unusually tough so far this year, perhaps paving the way for new names to forge their way into the European elite. In particular, the struggle of Real Madrid this season could ensure a different name on the Champions League trophy this spring, a title “Los Blancos” have claimed four of the last five seasons. The Women’s Super League has also kicked into gear, with Arsenal looking strong bets to reclaim the title won by London rivals Chelsea last year.
Across the Atlantic, Superbowl LIII in Atlanta will take centre stage this February. The Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Rams, and New Orleans Saints have been the pick of the bunch so far this season, but do not be surprised if Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, the usual suspects, get back to the big time once again. The Boston Red Sox stormed to the World Series in Baseball last year; can Alex Cora’s men repeat the trick? Moreover, the Golden State Warriors have enjoyed a clear hegemony over the rest of the pack in the NBA, yet the Boston Celtics, Portland Trail Blazers, and maybe even the Lebron James-driven Los Angeles Lakers could change all that come the playoffs next summer.
March will see the return of the Formula One World Championship and the tournament organisers will no doubt be privately desperate for some variety in the championship standings at the season’s close: Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton have enjoyed a lavish domination of the silverware in recent seasons. The men’s tennis season will begin with the same questions as last year’s, most pertinently: when will the younger generation of starts such as Alexander Zverev finally break through to replace the game’s ageing legends? Similar questions abound in the women’s game: did Naomi Osaka’s shock upset of Serena Williams to triumph in the US Open in September herald the beginning of the end for Williams’ ruthless dominance of the sport? Next year sees no Ryder Cup or Olympic games for supporters of men’s golf; instead the focus will be on the compelling balance of power between the American and European players and their pursuits of the year’s four majors. The women’s game does however see the return of the Solheim Cup: Gleneagles will be the setting as Team Europe attempt to reverse their defeats to the USA in the last two editions of the competition.
Ultimately, this is only just a sprinkling of the amount of sport that will be on show to be devoured the world over next year. It would also be foolish to predict the outcomes of the sport on offer over the ensuing 12 months; at the end of 2017, no one could’ve predicted the injury-hit Philadelphia Eagles would claim their first Superbowl title, or that England would embark on such a deep run at the FIFA World Cup, or that Team Europe could enjoy such a handsome Ryder Cup victory as they did. The essence of sport is in its unpredictability, so no matter what your allegiance or level of interest, make sure to sit back and savour what will be an unforgettable year in arenas across the globe.