In an Olympic year, sport invariably rises to the top of the agenda. Impact takes a look at some of the events going on in 2012 that you would be foolish to miss.
UEFA Euro 2012
The draws up, the schedule set, and that English sense of pre-tournament optimism is on the bubble. Euro 2012 is officially on its way and the Three Lions have to be pleased with a favourable draw, in which they have a good chance of gaining a top place finish in a group consisting of Sweden, host nation Ukraine and the once formidable France. Therefore even without Wayne Rooney (who is suspended for the opening two games as a result of his ‘assault’ on Miodrag Dzudovic in England’s 2-2 draw with Montenegro) there is cause for hope.
There is little doubt over Rooney’s selection as his expertise will be crucial in navigating the latter stages of the competition; England will most likely have to battle it out with Italy or European and World Champions Spain, who will be showcasing their resplendence in group C, unfortunately for Trapattoni’s Republic of Ireland. Of course, it would be naïve to be conclusively despairing over Keane & Co.’s chances, as they hit some good form in qualifying and the Azzurri were shockingly bad in their last two major tournaments. However, currently such is the strength of depth in European football. This is not even the tournament’s ‘group of death’; this honour goes to group X consisting of Germany, Netherlands, Denmark and Portugal, whilst the tamest group falls into the hands of co-host Poland.
What will be interesting is the squad selection. The more experienced names such as Gerrard, Ferdinand and Lampard are all unfit or ageing noticeably, so will there be open berths for spirited young guns to duel over? The likes of Jones, Walker and Welbeck have all proven that the kids are alright. But can England win? Well, they beat Spain, so surely that makes them the best in the world. Right?
As the BUCS season draws to a close for our esteemed athletes, the pressure begins to build ahead of 2012’s Varsity series between the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent. The series boasts an impressive range of sports, from those hailing from across the seas such as American Football to the distinctly English experience of watching Rugby in the pouring rain. The jewel of the Varsity crown is undoubtedly the Ice Hockey, which never fails to sell out the 7, 000-seater National Ice Centre, making it the most watched Ice Hockey game outside of North America.
The competition is set to be fierce, with Trent gaining the upper hand in most of the recent BUCS fixtures; however, the atmosphere and intensity of a Varsity series often throws form out of the window. Nottingham’s strengths lie in their Swimming, which they have not lost since the creation of the Varsity series, and the Men’s Basketball team, who went into the New Year unbeaten. The Rugby, Football and Hockey double-header (Men’s & Women’s) is so often where Varsity is decided, with the Women’s Hockey and Rugby team showing the most potential at this stage of the season.
To get a taste ahead of Varsity, there are a number of Clashes before the Series gets under way.
1st February, Men’s Rugby League Vs. Trent @ Highfields
5th February, Women’s Rugby Union Vs. Trent @ Highfields
With Danny Boyle directing the opening ceremony, it is certainly set to start with a bang, but will it really be a golden Olympics for Team GB? It will be a tough ask for Team GB to beat the ranking they received in Beijing, a commendable 4th, but there is a lot of optimism that some of the younger athletes could be ready to make a name for themselves on the world stage in London. In the recent Olympic test event for boxing, Team GB managed to take home an impressive 5 gold medals, a cause for some celebration. Jessica Ennis is also a favourite to regain her heptathlon world title at the Olympics and one could argue her closest challenge could indeed come from another Brit, Kelly Sotherton. Another favourite that could bring home gold is Dai Greene: after winning every title possible, the 400m runner just needs that last title to complete the set. These are just a few of our medal hopes in 2012, and you never know, with home support, 3rd place may not be totally out of sight.
However, not all things are looking positive for the games; for instance there has been some worries with regards to the special transport lanes that will only be introduced two days before the games. There are reservations, as Vancouver and Beijing had theirs in place for over a week to allow their residents to get used to the system. But, as Lord Coe keeps assuring us, everything will be ok!
Rugby Six Nations
Two keywords will dominate the Six Nations this year: consistency and rebuilding. All the teams are in need of either one or both. However, bar a minor French miracle, realistically the Wales vs Ireland fixture will decide the title.
Wales will be looking to consolidate their World Cup form and in a backline where the oldest member is 25 (Jamie Roberts) they are positively bubbling with hard, straight runners who have the luxury of youth on their side. Ireland are dangerous, but ageing. Unlike Wales, they stand at the other end of the scale age-wise. With so many players who will retire before the next World Cup (or should), they will be looking for one last hurrah whilst trying desperately to find replacements for some talismans that will be on the way out soon. The good news is their ageing warriors (O’ Driscoll, D’Arcy and O’ Connell to name a few) will have their years of experience to call on; that and an exceptionally powerful (if slightly one dimensional) back row definitely places them in the top 2.
France and England can be spoken about together, as both must rebuild around new coaches. France have the luxury of a permanent coach and a core of quality that, as ever, just needs consistency. England will have a whole new team and players picked by a caretaker coach, and we will see the emergence of new international talent but do not expect much cohesion as a unit, especially since the entire squad could be out of the door when the new permanent coach arrives.
Scotland are rebuilding after yet another World Cup disappointment, and unfortunately have very little talent to call on, their only bright spark likely to lie in Joe Ansbro. Otherwise expect big forwards and unimaginative backs, hard-fought wins and depressing losses. Italy under new coach Jacques Brunel, formerly at Perpignan, must continue to unearth new talent and are helped by Aironi and Treviso in the RaboDirect PRO 12. They have some world-class veterans and fans of every country will be hoping for more Italian fireworks.
Peter Klein, Jake Batty, Tomas MacBride & Jamie Loyd