World Football: 20 Outrageous Predictions for 2011

Andy Gray@@TheRealAndyGrayContributor IIJanuary 3, 2011

World Football: 20 Outrageous Predictions for 2011

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    As we all know, football can be an unpredictable mistress. You only have to look back on 2010 to know that not everything happens as it is supposed to.

    Who could have imagined that Liverpool, many pundit's tips for the title in 2010, would falter to mid table, which in turn allowed the unlikely Tottenham Hotspur to sneak into the Top Four.

    Who could then have expected Tottenham to go into their first ever Champions League campaign, drawn in a group with Inter Milan and make the last 16 as group winners.

    Did anyone expect Uruguay to make it within a whisker of the World Cup final?

    I also guarantee there weren't many people who bet on a Russia/Qatar double for the next two World Cup hosts.

    After Wayne Rooney's dominance in the Premier League prior to the World Cup, did anyone imagine we'd be standing here in the new year discussing why he hasn't scored a goal from open play since March?

    Perhaps the only predictable thing that happened in World Football last year was that Spain became World Champions.

    So here, I've compiled a list of my most outrageous predictions for 2011. May it be a mad one.

Sepp Blatter To Allow Goal Line Technology

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    There was outrage at the 2010 World Cup when England were denied a clear equalising goal in their Last 16 encounter with Germany, that may well have turned the game on its head.

    Had there been goal line technology in place, the goal would have stood, and England would have gone into halftime with the score at 2-2 and all the momentum with them

    Unfortunately, that wasn't the case and as a result the technology debate goes on.

    Blatter point blank refuses to bring it into the game and has so far only offered extra officials as an alternative.

    If more big decisions go wrong could he be forced to make the change everybody else wants?

David Beckham To Return to the Premier League

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    In the last two January transfer windows, David Beckham has joined AC Milan on loan in order to keep himself fit during the MLS offseason.

    This year though, Milan opted not to take him on loan again, and despite assurances in the LA Galaxy camp that Becks would not be let out on loan this year, there have been a number of inquiries according to the papers.

    Tottenham head the list of potential suitors, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him return to his London routes and join the club for one last hurrah in the Premier League.

    After all, we all know he's desperate to play for England again.

Chelsea To Miss Out on Champions League Qualification

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    On Tuesday night, Chelsea won their first league game in seven attempts with a narrow 1-0 victory over Bolton.

    They had struggled to find any form since the unceremonious departure of Ray Wilkins last month, and as a result, they dropped out of the Top Four for the first time this season.

    The win puts them back up into fourth place, but many have written them out of the title race already.

    I'm going to go one step further and say they will miss out on the Champions League for the first time in the Abramovich era.

    With Manchester United and Arsenal looking likely to remain in the places they have known as home for the last decade, and Manchester City putting up a title challenge, that leaves just one more spot, and I think the form of Tottenham will see them claim fourth spot once more.

    Chelsea may well have to settle for a Europa League entry.

Manchester City To Win the Premier League

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    Could this be the year when the huge investment up North pays off?

    In September 2008, Sheikh Mansour shocked World Football when he bought Manchester City FC and instantly signed Brazilian superstar Robinho.

    Since then, the blues have gone from strength to strength and even found themselves sitting pretty at the top of the table for a brief time after Christmas.

    They are currently only one point behind the leaders, arch rivals Manchester United, and with United looking sketchy at times, could this be City's year?

Birmingham City To Win the Carling Cup

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    Birmingham City have had a topsy turvy time since gaining promotion to the Premier League last summer.

    After a bad start, they enjoyed a 12-game unbeaten streak which propelled them into the top half of the table where they stayed, eventually finishing in ninth place—their best for 50 years.

    This season has been a different story, with the club currently sat just one point above the relegation zone.

    However, cup football has been kind to them, and having edged past arch rivals Aston Villa in the quarter finals of the Carling Cup, they now find themselves in the semifinals with just West Ham standing in the way of a trip to Wembley.

    A final against Arsenal could be on the cards, and in a one off game of football, anything can happen. Could this be the year they finally win a major trophy?

Roman Abramovich To Abandon the Sinking Chelsea Ship

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    The billionaire Russian has put a fortune into turning Chelsea football club from one of the also rans to one of the best football sides on the planet.

    However, I'm sure many Chelsea fans have worried that with so much input from the man in charge, if he ever decided to jump ship then the club would be in turmoil.

    This season has seen a lot of dissention in the ranks, and the sacking of Ray Wilkins has caused unrest at Stamford Bridge.

    Could 2011 be the year Roman finally decides to head for pastures new and sell up?

Wayne Rooney To Join Real Madrid

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    Wayne Rooney has been the Manchester United talisman since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo 18 months ago.

    Last season, he enjoyed his greatest form, bagging 34 goals and leading United to a Carling Cup victory and within a point of winning a fourth straight League title.

    This season has been the polar opposite for the scouser though he had to wait until New Year's Day to score in open play, and at one point, said he wanted to leave the club and nothing could change his mind.

    Days later, he U-turned and signed a new long-term deal.

    However, Ronaldo did the same before leaving the following Summer. Could Rooney have made an agreement with United to sign a new deal so that his price would be higher in the summer? Only time will tell.

Steven Gerrard And Fernando Torres To Leave Liverpool

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    I think it's finally time for this Liverpool stalwart to call time on his Anfield career.

    The captain has enjoyed almost 25 years at the club he joined as a 7-year-old in 1987 and has won two FA Cups, two League Cups, a UEFA cup, two Super Cups and who could forget the Champions League trophy—the finest night of his career.

    Unfortunately, he has never won a league title, and it doesn't look like Liverpool will be winning one anytime soon.

    I think Stevie G will be already contemplating life after Liverpool, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him leave in the summer.

    And I wouldn't be surprised to see Torres follow him.

Victor Valdes To Become Spain's No. 1

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    It's been a long time coming hasn't it?

    This poor man is clearly a blessed goalkeeper who would walk into the International team of most countries.

    Unfortunately, he has found himself in the same era as Iker Casillas and Pepe Reina, which has left the Barcelona stopper with just three caps to his name.

    However, as he helps propel Barcelona towards another Spanish title, while Reina toils with Liverpool and Casillas sits with almost 120 caps, possibly looking to step down soon, could it be the time of Valdes to stake his claim?

Harry Redknapp To Become England Manager

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    Not long ago, it would have seemed absurd to suggest that Fabio Capello could potentially face the sack, after guiding England almost flawless to the World Cup finals.

    However, after the South African debacle, his position has been under threat, and after a wobbly start to Euro 2012 qualifying, many have been calling for his head.

    The list of potential replacements is short, but it is topped by Harry Redknapp, at least in the minds of the fans.

    Harry has had his run ins with the FA over a number of financial issues, but he has proven quality and is a favourite amongst many supporters of the game.

    If things don't start going right for Don Fabio quickly, 'Arry's time might come sooner than you think.

Carlo Ancelotti To Feel the Wrath of the Russian

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    Ancelotti came to England with a big reputation after a long successful stint with AC Milan.

    He proceeded to lead his Chelsea side to Premier League victory, emulating the success of Jose Mourinho in his first year in England.

    Not only that, he added the FA Cup double to his list and cemented himself as a big name in management.

    However, this year has gone poorly and the departure of Ray Wilkins—against the wishes of Ancelotti—has seen Chelsea's title challenge diminish and left them with the real possibility of missing out on the Top Four.

    If that happens, it is unlikely that Roman Abramovich will allow Carlo any breathing space, and he'll be back on the unemployment line.

Sir Alex Ferguson To Retire

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    This one I'll admit is a long shot, but that's what this article is all about!

    Sir Alex Ferguson has achieved everything there is to achieve in football, and he's done it repeatedly.

    He's won 11 titles with Man Utd, five FA cups, four League Cups, and of course, two Champions League trophies, to name but a few.

    He also recently became the longest serving manager in the club's history, surpassing the achievements of the late Sir Matt Busby.

    I wouldn't be surprised to see Fergie step down in the summer, especially if he recaptures the Premier League title and wins a third European crown.

Arsene Wenger To Leave Arsenal

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    Could it be three of the top managers in the country leaving their respective jobs this summer?

    We've already made a case for Carlo and Alex, but perhaps the most vulnerable is Arsene.

    There have been long rumblings inside the Arsenal fan club that Arsene is no longer up for the job, and they are becoming increasingly frustrated by his reluctance to dip into the transfer market.

    It's been so long since Arsenal spent some serious money, surely they have a goldmine saved up by now, they just need to spend it.

    If Arsenal go another year without a trophy, it could be the end of the Frenchman's 15-year tenure.

A Great Britain Olympic Football Team

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    With London 2012 fast approaching, will there finally be an agreement reached over the inclusion of a Team GB football side for the Olympics?

    It seems ridiculous to think that an Olympic Games could be held in England, without a team representing the home nations in their own national sport. Yet, nothing has been resolved to date, and it is starting to look like a doubt.

    However, keep faith and maybe this year an agreement will finally be announced. The biggest stumbling block so far is that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are concerned FIFA will force them to feature Internationally as Team GB, but I don't see that happening.

Pro Evolution Soccer To Regain Its Gaming Crown

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    For many years, the FIFA football franchise dominated the football gaming market, but a couple of years ago, a rival came to town.

    Pro Evolution took on its rival, and for a brief time, it won. With many fans turning to PES for its more realistic game play, becoming known as the gamer's favourite.

    However, this year, FIFA retook the lead it had been threatening to do and the latest version has wiped its feet with the previously loved opponent.

    Will next year see a resurgence in PES or will FIFA continue to dominate the market?

    I fancy a comeback...

Diego Forlan Will Win the Balon D'or

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    Diego Forlan is unrecognisable from the player who was ridiculed at Manchester United as a 22-year-old unknown who took a long while to score his first goal for the club.

    Despite a poor return of just 17 goals in 95 appearances, he became a cult hero at Old Trafford, and the fans were sad to see him leave.

    Since leaving the club and moving to Spain, he has come on leaps and bounds, twice winning the golden shoe award for top goalscorer in any European League and spearheading Uruguay's charge to the semifinals of the World Cup in July. As a result, he won the award for player of the tournament.

    With the likes of Messi and Xavi firing on all cylinders, it may be unlikely, but would anyone begrudge it?

Tottenham Hotspur To Win the Champions League

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    This did make me chuckle when I first wrote it, but why not I suppose!

    Tottenham do score a lot of goals and were the top scorers in the group stages, which helped them top a group which included holders Inter Milan.

    Not long ago, the Champions League Final presented Porto vs. Monaco, which no one in their right mind would have predicted.

    With a bit of luck along the way and a favourable draw, there is no reason why Spurs couldn't mount a serious challenge. They've shown they can beat the best and beat them well and with talisman Gareth Bale leading the way, who knows.

Real Madrid To Fail To Reach the Champions League Quarterfinals Again

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    Believe it or not, Real Madrid has not reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League since the 2003/04 campaign, when they were beaten by eventual finalists Monaco.

    Since then, it has been repeated disappointment, including losses to Arsenal, Liverpool and Lyon to name a few.

    This year though, under the leadership of Jose Mourinho, big things are expected of the club, and many have tipped them to rival Barcelona in all competitions.

    However, they have been drawn against Lyon in the last 16, the side who knocked them out at this stage last year, so they shouldn't expect an easy ride. Don't be surprised if they crash out early again.

Fabio Capello To Join Inter Milan

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    So maybe, it's not outrageous, but considering the promises made and the wages paid, it would be a bit of a shock to happen in 2011.

    In the run up to the World Cup, there was talk of Don Fabio joining the European Champions, but he rubbished the reports, with many expecting him to lead England on a successful World Cup campaign. It didn't happen, and his stock fell.

    Since then, many England fans have called for a new era, but the FA and Capello have insisted he will stay until after the next European Championships.

    However, with fans losing faith and Inter in search of a new manager after the departure of Rafa Benitez, it could be the right time.

FIFA to Allow Winter World Cup in Qatar

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    I'm not sure there were many people that genuinely expect Sepp Blatter to announce Qatar as the hosts for the 2022 World Cup, but he did, and they will, and there's not much we can do about it now.

    There were a number of perplexing questions following the decision, mainly—why did this country, ranked outside the top 100, get given the opportunity to host a World Cup?

    Not only have Qatar never featured in the tournament, or even come close to qualifying, the city where they intend to hold the final doesn't currently exist.

    On top of that, the searing heat in the summer months means that every stadium will have to be heavily air conditioned to make the footballing conditions bareable.

    However, suggestions were made recently that the answer would be to stage this particular World Cup in the winter. As absurd as it might sound to play the tournament in the middle of the season for all of the World's major leagues, this idea has been welcomed by the powers that be.

    I've decided not to let this wind me up as it will more than likely happen and worrying will only serve to annoy me further and make me loathe Sepp Blatter even more than I already do.