Football

World Cup: Top 5 contenders for the title

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With the World Cup less than a month away, managers, players and staff are beginning to put the finishing touches in their plans to be as successful as possible in football's greatest event.

The squads were announced earlier this month, as expected some teams look much stronger than others. 

There will be many fantastic players and teams on show but we narrow it down to the five teams who have the best chance to achieve perhaps the ultimate prize in football and why.

Spain

The provisional squad that Spain announced on the 14th no doubt drafted fear into many opponents. The incredible depth of talent means that defending champions Spain will no doubt go into the World Cup as favourites.

Strength:

They are covered in almost every area. Outstanding keepers, full backs, midfielders, creative midfielders, you name it. One criticism of Spain in recent years has been that they lack a quality striker, as shown by the persistence of playing Cesc Fabregas in the forward role in previous tournaments. However, Spain now boast one of the most sought-after strikers in world football at the moment in Diego Costa. They seem to be the complete package.

Weakness: 

Although very hard to spot any fault in their outstanding squad, the lack of pace within may cause them problems if the passing is not flowing, which is usually rare. Jesus Navas and perhaps Pedro are the only men with any real speed and when they come up against the big teams in the latter stages of the tournament, pace may well be something they need badly.

Key Man: Xavi

The Barcelona man is still playing at the top of his game and his steadiness and skill is unquestionably the key part of both Spain and Barcelona's attacking game. At 34, this will almost certainly be his last tournament in an unbelievably successful career and Spain will need him to be doing what he does best, controlling the midfield and making things happen.

Germany

Traditionally, Germany frequently enjoy successful tournaments, albeit if they don't win. For example, in 2010 they were knocked out in the semis by Spain, but were rewarded with a breadth of new, young talents like Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira, Manuel Neuer and Thomas Muller who lit up the tournament with several dazzling displays, most notably in the 4-1 thrashing of England in the knockout stage. 

Strength:

Their outstanding midfield can compete with any nation in world football and are likely to prove their worth again this summer. The big game reputation of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Muller, combined with the youth of Julian Draxler and Mario Gotze and the world-class ability of Ozil, Marco Reus and Toni Kroos, will no doubt be they key component in Germany having a successful tournament.

Weakness:

A worrying lack of quality strikers. With exclusion of Mario Gomez, the Germans are left with Miroslav Klose, Lukas Podolski and young Kevin Volland. With Klose nearing the age of 36, Podolski being used predominantly as a winger by Arsenal last season and Volland being very inexperienced (1 cap), Germany may struggle to find a man to rely on to get them out of trouble when they are not playing well.

Key Man: Mesut Ozil

The German Gunner has had an up an down first season in the Premier League but is without doubt going to be the player Germany look to for some creative genius, which he is more than capable of. Ozil, along with others such as Muller and Reus may well have to chip in with vital goals due to the lack of firepower up front.

Brazil

Hosts and for some, the favourites, Brazil go into this summer with their best chance of World Cup success for a decade. A solid defence combined with a devastating attack, coach Luiz Felipe Scolari can be confident that they can overcome the major contenders and use their home advantage actually to their advantage. Despite this, many were shocked with the fact that Lucas Moura was left out of the squad despite some stellar performances for PSG this season, with his rapid speed and agility troubling many top class defenders around Europe.

Strength:

Outstanding individuals. Brazil have expectedly kept up their reputation of always having at least three or four match winners in their side. The likes of Neymar, Hulk, Willian and Oscar, combined with the rock solid foundation of key players like captain Thiago Silva, Fernandinho and Dante, is likely to prove to be a very potent force throughout the tournament. 

Weakness:

Like Germany, the lack of a top class striker must be a cause for concern for Brazil fans. Despite the sparkling form of Fred in the 2013 Confederations Cup (5 goals), Scolari only has the Fluminese man and Jo of Athletico Minero to choose from through the centre. Both are highly inexperienced at the highest level. Even though, the host nation boast several creative talents, the lack of firepower up front could come to haunt them when it really matters in the big, tight games.

Key Man: Neymar

The Barcelona man will be content with his first season in European football but many feel that his return of 15 goals in 41 games was not enough considering his huge £46.3 million price tag. However, the performances of the former Santos man throughout last year's Confederations Cup (4 goals, including a stunner against Japan) showed that his ability and skill is likely to cause many problems for opposing teams. If Neymar does well, the team usually follows. 

Argentina

Argentina have always provided thrills in World Cup tournaments, whether it be Maradona's 'hand of God', his dream goal against England in the 1986 finals, the 6-0 thrashing of Montenegro in 2006 or the entertaining 3-1 victory over Mexico in 2010. Coach Alejandro Sabella has been in charge since 2011 and will be looking to turn his team's enormous potential into success this summer.

Strength:

Their attacking talent is nothing short of sensational. With the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Rodrigo Palacio as options, there is no question that Argentina can score a fair few goals this summer. It says quite a lot that Carlos Tevez and Erik Lamela were left out of the provisional 26-man squad. There is little doubt that if Argentina have a successful campaign, it will be down to the superb attacking show that will be on display.

Weakness:

The defence. Not only are Argentina lacking a top class goalkeeper, but only Pablo Zabaleta and Ezequiel Garay boast frequent high level european experience and are reliable. Despite their outstanding attack, if the four-time winners keep leaking goals, much like they did in the qualifying defeats to Uruguay and Venezuela, then the big games against the big nations who have a much tighter defence will become twice as difficult. 

Key Man: Lionel Messi

This man needs no introduction. Despite a fairly quiet season by his unbelievably high standards, Messi still chipped in with 41 goals in 46 games and will be looking to be at his best in order to achieve perhaps the only thing missing from a remarkable CV, a World Cup medal. In Germany and in South Africa, Messi showed flashes of brilliance but failed to perform on a consistent basis. The four-time Ballon D'Or winner will be determined to be at his best this summer however. Similar to his club mate Neymar and Brazil, if Messi performs, Argentina are likely to perform.

France

The French always have high expectations of them. They are a team who are brilliant one tournament but utterly awful the next. In Germany 2006 they played plenty of free flowing football but also combined that with gritty results against teams like Spain. In South Africa 2010 however, they lost all three group games, finished bottom of a group containing Uruguay, Mexico and South Africa and scored only once. In addition, there was continuos friction within the squad and it all got fairly embarrassing. Nevertheless, this summer can provide plenty of optimism for French fans. A solid squad with a clever manager in Didier Deschamps means that France can fancy their chances of going very far this summer.

Strength:

A terrific squad balance. Quality is evident in every department. Players such as Hugo Lloris, Laurent Koscielny, Paul Pogba, Frank Ribery and Karim Benzema have all enjoyed highly successful seasons and no doubt hold the ability to cause many teams problems. The balance that they possess, which is not evident with a squad like Argentina's for example, must surely make them one of the favourites to win the World Cup for the second time.

Weakness:

Egos. France's squad shows no real signs of weakness but that will count for nothing if they repeat that highly unprofessional scenes of 2010 were just about every player had some kind of issue with manager Raymond Domenech. The events unquestionably, affected their performances on the pitch and showed that any unity and team spirit that was left in the French camp had gone that summer. If France can avoid a repeat of the needless theatrics of four years ago, then they have the squad and the coach to go all the way this summer.

Key Man: Franck Ribery

In what is likely to be Ribery's last world cup, he is vital to France's chances in Brazil. The Bayern man has put in some outstanding performances over the last couple of years and this has been recognised with a Ballon D'Or top three finish earlier this year. The pace and skill of the former Marseille man is crucial to France's attacking play and he will be determined to perform at his best for his country on the grandest stage of them all.

All teams competing in this summer's finals can have cause for optimism and they should provide some memorable moments, goals and matches in what could well be a World Cup to remember.

As to who is going be lifting the famous trophy come July 13th, well, that is most likely going to be anyone's guess.

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World Cup
Football

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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