Believe it or not, we’re now closer to the next World sporting events – Olympics excluded – than we were to the last one. The ICC Cricket World Cup will be held in 2019 in England and Wales, while the FIFA 2018 Football World Cup will be Russia. There’s also the cricket Champions Trophy this year in June. In short, test cricket is enjoying its last gasp before T20 and ODI season takes over. We’re only weeks away from the tennis European claycourt swing, too.
THE MONTH OF CHAMPIONS
The UEFA Champions League quarterfinal draw was announced earlier this week. Leicester City, the only English team remaining in the tournament, was drawn to face one of three Spanish teams – the lesser giants, Atletico Madrid. In the match-up of the year, German Champions Bayern Munich (who destroyed Arsenal again) were drawn against defending champions Real Madrid. Barcelona were drawn against Italian champions Juventus, while two young attacking teams – perhaps the most exciting in Europe right now – Borrisia Dortmund and Monaco were drawn against each other. The two legs will take place over the second and third weekend of April.
THE HOME OF THE BEAUTIFUL GAME
The South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) resumed their qualifiers this week for the 2019 World Cup. The 2014 finalists, Lionel Messi’s Argentina, were in a precarious position after 12 games (only 5 wins) – placed in 5th position (out of 10), which won’t guarantee automatic qualification. In a crucial match on Friday night, they played fourth-placed Chile – whose Messi-inspired 1-0 result went a long way in calming the nerves of the favourites. Top placed Brazil played in second-placed Uruguay in another game, and destroyed them 4-1, further sealing their place at the top of the table. Neymar scored one. Brazil has now won 9 out of their first 13 games. The top 4 will qualify, while the fifth placed side go into an inter-confederation playoff with the winner of the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) tournament.
In a European friendly, World champions Germany defeated England 1-0 in Dortmund with a Lukas Poldolski screamer in his final game for his country. But the game was once again overshadowed by some disgraceful behavior by the visiting English fans – who booed the German national anthem and spent the night chanting about the two World Wars.
THE RED LIGHTS GO OFF
At long last, the 2017 F1 season will be underway at Australia this weekend. Defending champion Nico Rosberg has retired, and Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes are once again favourites at the beginning of a 20-round year. His new teammate Valtteri Bottas finished half a second behind him in their first practice session at Melbourne, followed by the two Red Bulls of homeboy Daniel Ricciardo and prodigy Max Verstappen – setting the stage for a long, grueling contest, one that will hopefully be competitive between teams than merely between teammates.
The fourth and final test of the Border-Gavaskar trophy between India and Australia will begin on Saturday at the picturesque Dharamsala. The following major things have happened in the last few days in the run-up to the match: The Australian media has destroyed Kohli in their publications, as has the CA chief – which means that he has been getting under the skin of a country long known for perpetrating similar sentiments on visiting teams.
Kohli’s shoulder hasn’t recovered, and young Mumbai batsman Shreyas Iyer has been called as “cover” for the Indian captain. He could make his international debut tomorrow. Furthermore, Mohammad Shami has been declared unfit for the final match despite being called up to join the squad, which means that the bowling is not likely to change, unless Bhuvneshwar Kumar replaces Karun Nair to take up the extra-bowler spot. Rohit Sharma injured his knee on the eve of his Deodhar Trophy game, which means that even if he had a chance to be called up to replace another injured batsman at Dharamshala, it’s all gone. He ends the season having played just two domestic T20 games for Mumbai, and will now directly participate in the Indian T20 league as captain of the Mumbai Indians and the upcoming Champions Trophy.
Quinton de Kock has been ruled out of the Delhi Daredevils in the upcoming season, further lending the team a blow after the pulling out of JP Duminy. Imran Tahir has replaced Mitchell Marsh for the Rising Pune Supergiant squad, while Kohli is in danger of missing the entire season.
The Miami Masters begins this weekend, with defending champion Djokovic and World no. 1 Murray not playing the event. Roger Federer will be seeded 4th as a result (he is now ranked 6), and he will be aiming to win his third title here. Rafael Nadal will be aiming to win his first, having reached and lost three finals before this year. This will be the last hard-court event before the European claycourt swing begins, concluding with the French Open in late May.