Quite an action-packed sports week, this one. It’s the time of the year when international competition and chest-beating patriotism comes to the fore – leaving behind all the domestic leagues, wham-bam contests and barnstorming beginnings. 2016 was always going to be a big year, and we’ve now reached the part of the season where we will know why. This is just the beginning. As we speak, we have at least six major simultaneous events going on across the globe, with four on the way.
Euro 2016 will finally get underway this weekend, four years after Spain conquered their continent for the second consecutive time, just two years after they lifted the World Cup. This time, however, it’s Germany who are World Champions, and defending Euro holders Spain won’t even start as favorites as they’re still to rebuild after their Golden Era under Vicente Del Bosque. Hosts France will be the No. 1 contenders, though, with almost all of UK qualifying – England, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland and Wales playing over the next week. The big one, with England playing Wales on next Thursday, will go a long way to decide which team qualifies top of that group. England have been unbeaten through their qualifying campaign, the only team to do so.
Matches to look out for this weekend: England v/s Russia (Sunday), Germany v/s Ukraine (Sunday)
The Copa America Centenario is underway as we speak in the United States, with the world’s top-ranked team Argentina looking good to qualify for the quarterfinals, and perpetual favorites Brazil not far behind. Defending champions Chile face an uphill battle to qualify after losing to a Messi-less Argentina in their first match. The quarterfinals will be held from June 16 to June 18, with Argentina still looking for their first major title since 1992. After Brazil’s disappointing draw with Ecuador in their opening match, they slammed minnows Haiti for seven goals to lead their group. The week ahead will bring the knockouts to the fore, clashing with the Euro Group Stages, thereby assuring football fans all over the world at least two teams to support simultaneously in separate continents.
The 116th US Open Championships – the second major of the year after the Augusta Masters – will get underway this weekend at Oakmont Country Club, one of the toughest golf courses in the world at this time of the year. World No. 2 Jordan Spieth, who sensationally choked in the back 9 to blow a sizable championship lead, is the defending US Open Champion, while Aussie Jason Day, the World No. 1, will want to win a major to seal his spot at the top. Tiger Woods has again pulled out of a major, confirming that his days are almost over, and he will most likely end his career on 14 majors. The course here is said to be so challenging that breaking par will be considered a major achievement over its four days.
Other contenders: Rory Mcllroy, Dustin Johnson, Adam Scott, Danny Willett
England will resume battle with Sri Lanka in the third and final Test at Lords, and they’re already in the process of completing a whitewash 3-0. Wicket-keeper Jonny Bairstow has come good with another clutch century, while Moeen Ali has again led some rearguard action after a top order collapse.
The tri-series in West Indies seems to be a low-scoring, slow affair, with scores like 180 being defendable on the sluggish Caribbean pitches. After West Indies pulled off an upset by defeating South Africa in the first match, things have gone back to order after Australia defeated West Indies with a bonus point, and South Africa surprisingly defeated Australia with a bonus point.
India’s Tour Of Zimbabwe will get underway with three ODI matches taking place over the next week – a good test for India’s bench strength, with only MS Dhoni being the experienced player on this tour. Everyone else is taking a break, with guys like Manish Pandey and Jasprit Bumrah looking to seal their permanent spots in a team with a good show here.
The French Open finally belongs to World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who won his 12th Major over the weekend, defeating Andy Murray in the final again. The grass court season is immediately underway, with a returning Roger Federer struggling through his first match in a while at Stuttgart, but with sad news coming in that Rafael Nadal has pulled out of Wimbledon with his wrist injury. Perhaps the change of era is well and truly complete now. Queens and Halle is just around the corner, with Wimbledon in the last week of June.