Canada at the Women’s World Cup

Canada’s women’s football team will once again be facing off against New Zealand and the Netherlands in the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Canada previously played both teams in the 2015 tournament, which Canada hosted, and now all three have been drawn into a group together alongside new opponent Cameroon.

After finishing second at the CONCACAF Women’s Championship, they enter the competition ranked fifth in the world, highest in their group while their groupmates, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Cameroon rank seventh, 19th, and 46th, respectively.

While Canada have only lost once to New Zealand in 2000, it will not be as easy this time. New Zealand have won the Oceania Women’s Nations Cup, and the Netherlands Football Confederation won the European championship, proving the group stage to be more than a cakewalk.

Pair that with potential meetings in the quarterfinals with Australia and the semifinals with Germany, and it will be a stiff competition all the way through.

Head coach Kenneth Heiner-Møller believes that, while there are a few strong favourites for the crown, “Canada are certainly one of them. We are confident and have shown that we can beat the best on the world stage.”

Prediction: Expect Canada to go far and land a podium place to beat their record of fourth place.

  • Felipe Vallejo

Toronto FC

2018 was not the season that we all wanted for the then-reigning champs Toronto FC. They went from being first in the league and winning the MLS Cup to being 19th in the league and missing out on the playoffs.

The reasons range from long injury spells of crucial and rotation players, to strenuous scheduling due to CONCACAF Champions League duties, to even bad planning as weak teams were fielded for MLS games with the catch-up plan failing in the end.

But the past is in the past, and Toronto FC need to rebuild for the next season. For this coming season to be a success, or at the very least an improvement, they need reinforcements as well as stability in the presence of their crucial players.

Star players Bradley, Altidore and Giovinco are all coming into their last year of their contracts, and the board needs to decide quickly if they are to stay long-term or leave soon, as the mystery of their extension could take tolls on the squad overall.

As for recruitment, they are already on the right track as they have signed former MLS Defender of the Year Laurent Ciman to their roster, bolstering their defensive line that proved leaky last season. Now all they need is more attacking depth to solidify the squad and show that last season was just a blip.

Prediction: If all goes well in terms on injuries, scheduling, contract negotiations, and good recruitment, Toronto FC has a shot at the title.

  • Felipe Vallejo

Manchester United

This prediction may seem farfetched, considering that United is set to face off with Paris Saint-Germain in the next stage of Champions League.

However, the recent firing of manager José Mourinho seems to have lit a fire under the club, and breathed life into Paul Pogba and striker Marcus Rashford.

Despite United’s struggles in the past year, it is important to consider that, on paper, United is still one of the most talent-filled clubs in all of football.

It is clear that if United were to live up to its full potential, the idea of the Red Devils winning the Champions League would not seem so improbable after all.  

Prediction: Manchester United will win the Champions League.

  • Amrit Bola

Changes to NBA lineups

While there is no denying the unbelievable talent that LeBron James is, criticism has been directed at his inability to alter his game in order to fit other players. In Miami, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh saw their numbers drop in the 2010–2011 season, as they struggled to fit LeBron’s playing style.

Additionally, many stars seem unwilling to have their light diminished by the supernova that is LeBron. Kyrie Irving left Cleveland last year in order to forge his own path, and this past summer, Paul George decided to remain in Oklahoma City, rather than travel west to Hollywood. For LeBron, this summer will be very lonely.

Prediction: A superstar free agent will not join LeBron James in a Lakers uniform this offseason.

  • Henry McGowan

Any team in the NBA led by LeBron has the ability to make the NBA Finals. Also, any team led by LeBron is prone to make hasty moves in order to surround LeBron with the best supporting cast possible.

While there have been numerous rumours floating around of Anthony Davis’ desire to play in Los Angeles (LA), alongside Kawhi Leonard and numerous others, I don’t believe that the LA Lakers will gut their young, and talented, roster to make any moves for these players.

It would be disadvantageous for the Lakers to sacrifice their bright future for a slight possibility of a championship, especially in the 2019 season, when the Golden State Monstars, I mean Warriors, are poised to make a championship run that cannot be stopped. Seeing as Davis still has a year remaining on his contract and Leonard has not expressed interest in the Lakers directly, I predict it’s going to be a quiet year for the Lakers.

Prediction: The Lakers will make no significant moves at the trade deadline.

  • Tushar Sharma

While this may seem like wishful thinking or a pipe dream, I predict that 2019 will be the year that the Golden State Warriors finally disband. This narrative has been circulating for several months now, following an altercation between Draymond Green and Kevin Durant this season, but it is more substantial than mere speculation.

Durant has been vocal about his desire for a lucrative contract, and with Klay Thompson up for renewal this summer, and Green up for renewal in 2020, the Warriors are strapped for cash. Of course, there is the possibility that Green and Thompson take pay cuts to accommodate Durant, but these cuts probably won’t be enough to sign Durant to a sufficiently attractive contract and retain a capable bench. Considering these contract woes with the apparent locker-room drama and a declining defense, and we have the perfect storm for the Warriors to lose their All-Star team lineup.

Prediction: 2019 will be the year that the Golden State Warriors break up.

  • Tushar Sharma

NCAA men’s basketball

The Duke Blue Devils are among the most storied programs in college basketball and are contenders to win March Madness on a yearly basis. Their current roster includes RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cam Reddish, ESPN’s three top-ranked high school basketball players in the class of 2018, who might be their most talented in history.

The group is led by the Canadian Barrett, a small forward who has a polished scoring touch and the ability to maneuver around defenders.

Thus far, the Blue Devils have lived up to expectations with only one loss to date this season. The team’s skill, combined with the leadership and guidance of Coach K, will result in their sixth NCAA title in program history.

Prediction: Duke will win the 2019 NCAA Tournament.

  • Joseph Rossi

The Toronto Raptors

With the turning of the calendar, sports fans are often quick to declare their predictions for what the new year will hold in the world of sports.

One of my predictions for 2019 is that Kawhi Leonard will opt to re-sign with the Toronto Raptors.

Come this offseason, the Raptors will be in a position to offer Leonard a five-year contract worth $190 million, whereas other teams will only be able to offer four years and $141 million.

Fans might be quick to point out that as far as basketball is concerned, money does not seem like Leonard’s prime motivator.

However, staying in Toronto may also provide Leonard his best opportunity to win, as the Raptors currently sit at the top of the Eastern Conference.

With strong role players and a deep bench, it is hard to imagine a competitor such as Leonard turning down a leadership position on this championship-calibre Raptors squad.

Prediction:  Kawhi Leonard will re-sign with the Toronto Raptors.

  • Amrit Bola 

On July 1, Leonard becomes a free agent after the conclusion of the 2018–2019 season and the pundits are split on whether Leonard will remain a Raptor or take his talents elsewhere.

Currently, Toronto is occupying first place overall in the NBA and I think that this success, as well as Leonard’s role as the primary scorer on the team, will tilt the scales in favour of Leonard remaining a Raptor.

With their strong start to the season, the Eastern Conference championship is well within reach for the Raptors, which has their fans quietly predicting  that they will end up in the NBA Finals. Additionally, in 2020, the Raptors will hold a favourable position regarding the league’s salary cap, which would allow them to build the team around Leonard, if he stays in Toronto.

Finally, Toronto is considered a world-class city and is one of the largest in North America. The devoted fan base alone makes Toronto a desirable location for any athlete to call home.

Prediction: Kawhi Leonard will re-sign with the Toronto Raptors.

  • Abby Lessard 

Serena Williams and tennis

Serena Williams returned to professional tennis in 2018 following the birth of her first child. Williams making the finals at Wimbledon and the US Open marked a terrific return to the Grand Slam tournaments in 2018.

With these two accomplishments in 2018, I believe that Serena Williams is poised to win at least one Grand Slam in 2019, and Williams is motivated to achieve at least two more Grand Slam trophies in order to surpass Margaret Court’s major singles record of 24.

Prediction: Serena Williams will win the Australian Open in Melbourne, tying Margaret Court’s 24 major singles titles, and then surpass the record with either a victory at Wimbledon or the US Open.

  • Abby Lessard 

Tiger Woods and golf

Having won his first tournament in over five years this past September, Tiger Woods has risen from the brink of retirement to a position where his talents and name on the leaderboard are once again feared by competitors.

He finished second in the season-long points race, highlighted by his victory at the Tour Championship in a field of the top 30 PGA Tour players. Woods’ driver has once again become a weapon, with speed and aggression having returned to his swing following a fourth back surgery.

Augusta National, Pebble Beach, and Bethpage Black, three of the major venues for 2019, are places where Woods has previously won majors, setting the stage for yet another chapter in his storied return to the top of the golfing world.

Prediction: Tiger Woods will win a major in 2019.

  • Henry McGowan

Woods’ 2018 season has been deemed by many to be the greatest comeback in sports history. When Woods made his official PGA season debut at the Farmers Insurance Open, he was just nine months removed from his fourth back surgery.

Despite this, Woods showed flashes of his old dominant self in 2018, highlighted by top-10 finishes at two of the four Major Championships including second place at the PGA Championship. Tiger’s greatest triumph came in the last tournament of the season: the Tour Championship where he secured his 80th career victory and first since 2013. This past year, Tiger proved that he is still a formidable competitor.

Prediction: Tiger Woods’ success will continue into the upcoming season where he will win his 15th Major Championship and the first since 2008.

  • Joseph Rossi