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CurlingGlenn Howard is clear world title favourite, but who's next?

Posted: Thursday, March 29, 2012 | 03:21 PM

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Glenn Howard has won 27 of his last 28 games, including the Brier final. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press) Glenn Howard has won 27 of his last 28 games, including the Brier final. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

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Glenn Howard is expected to capture the 2012 World Men's Curling Championship in Basel, Switzerland. There, I said it. At the risk of giving them the Kiss of Death, anything other than a victory will be very disappointing for Team Canada

Eleven other teams, however, will try to spoil my prediction of a Canadian victory. Here's a breakdown of the field.
Glenn Howard is expected to capture the 2012 World Men's Curling Championship in Basel, Switzerland. There, I said it. At the risk of giving them the Kiss of Death, anything other than a victory will be very disappointing for Team Canada.

Howard and his teammates are huge favourites at this year's event for one simple reason. They are the best team in the world at this time. Howard, Wayne Middaugh, Brent Laing and Craig Savill have been on a roll, winning 27 of their last 28 games. They were never even remotely threatened at this year's Brier in Saskatoon, winning the event with ease. This team is on fire.

Howard is trying to join Randy Ferbey and the legendary Richardson family as the only four-time world champions. Howard's last world title - in 2007 in Edmonton with Laing, Savill and former third Richard Hart - was one of the most dominant performances in world championship history. The team gave up zero stolen ends over 13 games in the four-rock free guard zone, and crushed Germany in the final.

This team expects a similar performance. Howard told me this week that his team is playing as well as they ever have and they are very confident.

Eleven other teams, however, will try to spoil my prediction of a Canadian victory. Here's a breakdown of the field.

Playoff Contenders

Sweden: Niklas Edin and his team have had a wonderful season on the World Curling Tour. They became one of only a few European teams to ever win a major cash bonspiel in Canada by winning the Sun Life Classic in Brantford, Ont., where the field included Howard, Kevin Martin, Jeff Stoughton and most of the top 20 teams in the world. They are confident, strong and improving every time I see them play.

Norway: Thomas Ulsrud and his team are no strangers to the podium. World runners-up in 2010 and Olympic silver medalists, their numerous playoff appearances over the years make this team one of the favourites to advance past the round-robin in Basel. Expect them to be near the top of the standings.

Scotland:
Tom Brewster and his team were the runners-up to Stoughton and Team Canada last year in Regina. This young team is a little inconsistent, but they impressed many last year and will have high expectations this year. If they get off to a good start, they will be tough to beat as the week progresses.

Dark Horses

China: Rui Liu and his team are a little streaky. They have moments of being be very good and also moments of being very bad. They will need to find a consistent high level to do well in this field.

Denmark:
Rasmus Stjerne and his team have made some excellent progress over the past couple of seasons. They made the semifinals of the bonspiel in Brantford in November and have been improving every time they step on the ice. They have also had some success in big events, making the final of the 2010 European Championships before falling to Norway.

United States: Heath McCormick is a relative unknown playing in his first world championship, but he's very well known in southern Ontario. McCormick was an Ontario Mixed champion in 2004, and he made it to the final of the Ontario men's championship in 2003, narrowly missing out on a trip to the Brier. He is a U.S. citizen and made the decision to play out of the States a few years ago, with the goal of making the Olympics and world championships. He knows how to curl at the highest level. His biggest challenge will be his inexperience at this type of event. If he starts strong, he could contend for a playoff position.

The Rest


Switzerland: Home-ice advantage for Jan Hauser and his team will help them win a few games, but this is a strong field. If they get rolling early they may sneak into a battle for a playoff spot, but I expect them to finish in the middle of the pack.

Czech Republic: Jiri Snitil and his team are returning to the worlds with more experience, and hope to move up the world rankings with some victories here. They'll win a few games, but they're in tough.

France:
Thomas Dufour had a great run last year, going 7-4, but this field is much stronger than last year's. His team is also trying to gain valuable ranking points to qualify for the Sochi Olympics. They work hard at their game but will need to be at their best to win games here.

Germany: John Jahr and his team have little experience at this level, as we usually see Andy Kapp representing Germany at the worlds. This team will need to play well to avoid the basement.

New Zealand:
Peter De Boer and his team, with familiar face Sean Becker at third, return to the worlds with hopes of getting some wins for world ranking points. This field is very deep, however, so wins will be scarce, I'm afraid.

How they'll finish (with round-robin records)

Canada (10-1): gold medal
Sweden (9-2): silver medal
Norway (9-2): bronze Medal
Scotland (7-4)   
USA (7-4)
Denmark (6-5)
Switzerland (5-6)
France (4-7)
China (4-7)
Germany (2-9)
Czech Rep (2-9)
New Zealand (1-10)

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