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World Cup Preview - Part 1

Starting from next thursday, 32 nations gathered from across the globe will be contending to lift the most prestigious prize in world football. Some countries will be expecting glory, some will be hoping for success and some will just be glad to be on the plane to Russia.

With so many goals, shocks and fairytales waiting to take place, we thought we should delve into front runners chances and hopes for this summers feast of football.

First up is a look at the 4 heavyweights of the International Game...

 

Germany

Having just announced that Manchester City Ace Leroy Sane won't be making the trip to Russia, the Germans have fully cemented the worldwide opinion of being favourites. With an embarrassment of riches to choose from, Joachim Low potentially has the strongest squad he's ever had at his disposal. Boasting far more options than previous years, Germany make for an intimidating proposition for almost every nation competing. With a combination of dynamic youth and freshness and significant experience, the team sheet Low picks will undoubtedly be a strong one, regardless of whether anyone is 'rested'. Leon Goretzka and Timo Werner may well emerge onto the next level at this tournament and with a number of current world cup winners still around from their success 4 years ago, there are surely few who would bet on them retaining their title this time round. Low still has faith in Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira, Thomas Muller and Jerome Boateng - who all seem to come into their own when playing for their country. However, if you were to pick one vulnerability to Germany, it is that they perhaps lack a truly deadly, world-class finisher up top. Having relied on the prolific Miroslav Klose for years, Low has had to do with what he has and with Mario Gomez, a striker who's had an up and down career in recent years, they somewhat lack an Icon in front of goal. Having said all that, the Semi-Finals at the very least is to be expected.

Brazil

Is it really 4 years ago since that 7-1 humbling to Germany? For Brazil to recover and come back into the world cup reckoning 4 years on, is a miracle. Tite, the coach took over mid way through a disastrous qualifying campaign and transformed them into world beaters again and now people are talking about Brazil like they always used to. Suffocated by the pressure of being hosts at the last world cup and clueless when without their talisman Neymar, Brazil lacked cutting edge all over the field and essentially disappointed. However, now they have a new look squad and have been playing with such swagger - it looks as though Brazil are back. The emergence of Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Gabriel Jesus has taken the pressure of Neymar a little this time round. The squad now looks balanced and fairly steady throughout. They now have options in goal - yet still are relying on a lot of 30+ players, particularly at the back. Thiago Silva, Miranda and Filipe Luis are not getting any younger at all, so may be a bit slow in defence these days. Having said that, the system Tite deploys ensures protection - with Casemiro, Paulinho and Fernandinho solidifying the midfield - allowing the more exhuberant flair players to do what they do best. Winning the title is more than possible.

Spain

In recent tournaments, Spain have been going through a transitional period. The old guard who brought so much success between 2008 and 2012 have slowly been dropping off to the point where there is now only a few still remaining. In most areas, they are a young, fresh looking team - yet there are a number of the golden generation still around, clocking up well over 100 caps. For Sergio Ramos, Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta and David Silva, this is likely to be their last world cup. It is clear that Lopetegui has deliberately tried to slowly integrate players into the squad to merge a blend of experience and future - therefore, you would argue this world cup may be a step too far. A potentially big tournament for Thiago and Isco, Spain will want to banish any memory of the previous one 4 years ago. Combined with a stuttering Euro 2016, they have lost an auora somewhat - however, you would be foolish to bet against a return to the top for the spaniards. Having dropped Alvaro Morata, Pedro and Fabregas - Lopetegui has put faith in inexperience this time round, by selecting 3 strikers with less than 10 caps to their names. Although still Possessing the talent to overturn anyone on their day - once in the quarters, Spain should fancy themeselves.

France

The manner in which France lost the Euro 2016 Final on home soil to Portugal took a considerably long time to get over. It was supposed to be fate - bringing home major success in their own country, just like they did in 1998. However, unlike 1998 the inexperience showed and in the final they froze. 2 years on and after a lot of ups and downs, France are returning with even more options than ever. Kylian Mbappe, Ousmanne Dembele and Thomas Lemar have all emerged into the world class bracket since the euros and being able to leave Alexandre Lacazette and Anthony Martial at home clearly shows just how good this generation of French players is. Yet to show the stealiness that the 1998-2000 team showed but in terms of shear talent - they are maybe the best. Antoine Griezmann at 27 is coming into his prime and with the majority of their squad under the age of 26, it's frightening what they could achieve. It's hard to pick out a real weakness to this squad of talented individuals, apart from slightly bottling it when it truly matters - this is a barrier that will no doubt be tested this summer, yet if they play to their potential it's hard to argue that they will be the ones to beat.