Who Is Set for a Big Year in World Football?

Ian RodgersWorld Football Staff WriterDecember 28, 2012

Who Is Set for a Big Year in World Football?

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    In the closing stages of 2012, thoughts are turning to the new year and what it will bring for clubs, players, managers and supporters across the globe.

    The New Year chimes herald a new dawn with resolutions aplenty for individual people, and the world of football is no different.

    And 2013 will also offer an opportunity for some to outshine the rest and make their mark on the game.

    The new year will be a big one for the following figures in football.

Brazil

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    Brazil will become the epicentre of sport in 2013 as the country hosts the FIFA Confederations Cup in preparation for the World Cup the following year.

    Throw in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and the South American country fully becomes the focus of our attention for the next three years.

    But the Brazilian national football team have slipped to 18th in the FIFA world rankings this year, which is unheard of for a country that has produced and will continue to produce some of the world’s best footballers.

    True, the placing of Brazil in the world list is merely a combination of a lack of competitive matches and the anomaly of FIFA’s rankings.

    However, after losing to Argentina and drawing with Colombia last month, Brazilian pride will be hurting after the plummet down the table.

    Next year will provide Brazil with the chance to make its mark ahead of the World Cup on home soil with the Confederations Cup tournament, which will also feature Spain, Italy, Mexico, Japan, Uruguay, Tahiti and the 2013 African Nations Cup winners.

    Ostensibly designed to test out stadia for the World Cup, the competition will allow Luiz Felipe Scolari and his team, including the prodigious Neymar, to sound out a warning to the rest of the world.

Marouane Fellaini

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    Marouane Fellaini will go down as, arguably, David Moyes’ best signing for Everton.

    The Belgium international has been an inspirational force for the Goodison Park club ever since he signed for a club-record fee of £15 million from Standard Liege in 2008.

    The 25-year-old had impressed Moyes when he played for the Belgian side in the Champions League final qualifying round in the same year, and the Everton boss succeeded where Manchester United failed the previous season in landing the player.

    Fellaini has been the subject of disciplinary measures during his time at Goodison, most notably his current three-match ban for head-butting Stoke defender Ryan Shawcross earlier this month.

    But his marauding style, quality of link-up play, physical presence and goal-scoring ability have made him a target for the biggest European clubs.

    Fellaini insists he is in no rush to make an exit from the Merseyside club, but it is widely expected that 2013 will be the year when he becomes a major name on the game, wherever he might be.

Rafael Benitez

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    Rafael Benitez has not had an easy ride since becoming interim manager at Chelsea.

    The former Liverpool and Inter Milan boss succeeded Stamford Bridge legend Roberto Di Matteo at the club in November and was hit by a barrage of jeers as he took his place in the dugout for the first time in the goalless draw with Manchester City.

    Many Chelsea fans have not forgotten Benitez’s remarks about the West London club while he was in charge at Anfield.

    However, under the Spaniard, Chelsea and, most importantly, Fernando Torres have enjoyed a resurgence in form and have regained a foothold in the Premier League title race.

    Benitez has guided the club to four successive domestic wins in league and cup, including an impressive haul of 17 goals in that time.

    Benitez also seems to be getting the best out of Torres. The Spain striker had endured a torrid time at Chelsea following his £50 million move from Liverpool in January 2011.

    Shorn of confidence and form, Torres cut a forlorn figure at Stamford Bridge but the arrival of Benitez, the man who took him to Anfield, has seen the forward claim seven goals from 10 games.

    Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is a known admirer of Pep Guardiola, and the former Barcelona coach will cast a long shadow over Benitez for the remainder of his time at the club.

    But 2013 could be the year when Benitez re-establishes himself as a major name in managerial circles.

Manchester City

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    Manchester City are facing a crucial 2013 along with manager Roberto Mancini.

    City needed a last-gasp strike from Sergio Aguero to claim the Premier League title from rivals Manchester United in May, despite playing at home against relegation candidates Queens Park Rangers.

    It so nearly became one of those last-day moments for which previous regimes at City had become renowned, like the 1996 demotion from the top flight.

    City might have triumphed in the title race last season, but their two Champions League campaigns have so far offered little cheer for the supporters.

    While United are lining up a last-16 clash with Real Madrid, City will be at home after failing to even qualify for the Europa League from their group.

    City need to retain their title this season or at the very least push United close in order to ease fears they are a one-season wonder.

    But it will be in Europe in 2013 where City require an even greater impact to justify the millions spent on success at the club.