5 World Football Teams on the Rise

Ian RodgersWorld Football Staff WriterFebruary 5, 2013

5 World Football Teams on the Rise

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    The usual suspects across global football still occupy the leading positions in the league tables.

    But there has always been an undercurrent of clubs making an unexpected mark on their respective leagues.

    Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Juventus might all lead the way, but who are the other clubs on the rise?

    Here we look at five teams on an upward trajectory across the globe.

FC Mainz 05

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    FC Mainz 05 are the surprise package of the Bundesliga this season but did little to suggest something was in the air as they won only one and lost three of their opening matches.

    But something has stirred in the Rhineland-Palatinate capital with a sequence of five wins from seven games before the weekend defeat by Bayern Munich propelling the club into the top five and into the German Cup quarterfinals.

    When Jorn Andersen was surprisingly sacked in 2009 after just one year in charge, Under-19 coach Thomas Tuchel took over and Mainz finished a comfortable ninth in the table after promotion.

    Mainz then won their opening seven matches of the following season, including a memorable victory over Bayern Munich, as reported by CNN.

    Tuchel has continued that form into the current campaign and the 2-1 German Cup last-16 win at Schalke has been a highlight for supporters, who were watching second-tier football just four years ago.

    The star man for Mainz is Hungarian striker Adam Szalai, who has scored 11 goals in 19 Bundesliga appearances this season.

Tottenham Hotspur

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    Tottenham have always been one of the biggest names in English football, but their presence as a major force in the game is also now being cemented under manager Andre Villas-Boas.

    The Portuguese coach took over from the sacked Harry Redknapp last summer, despite the former manager guiding Spurs to fourth place in the Premier League and it was only Chelsea's Champions League victory which denied the North London club their place in the tournament this season.

    Villas-Boas, though, has continued Tottenham's development in his first campaign in charge with a top-four place a strong possibility.

    Gareth Bale is the focal point of the team, but players such as Jermain Defoe and Aaron Lennon are enjoying a new lease on life under the former Chelsea manager, who has just added Lewis Holtby to his midfield ranks.

Napoli

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    Napoli have continued to rise over the past three seasons in Serie A, and their current second place in the table is just reward for an excellent campaign to date.

    Manager Walter Mazzarri has guided the Italian club into the upper echelons of the table since taking over from Robert Donadoni in October 2009.

    The Naples club finished sixth in the league in Mazzarri's first season in charge and have finished third and fifth in the campaigns since then.

    Mazzarri's capture of Uruguay international Edinson Cavani in 2010 has been a key factor in the Napoli success story with the striker hitting 67 goals in 89 appearances for the club.

Malaga

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    The rise of Malaga in La Liga comes as no surprise after Sheikh Abdullah Al-Thani took over ownership of the club in 2010.

    But, after seasons of financial constraints and relegation, the current upward trajectory has stunned even Malaga supporters.

    The fourth-place finish under manager Manuel Pellegrini last year was the highest in club history and could even have been higher but for a poor midseason run which included defeat to Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey.

    This season, however, Malaga are currently holding their own in fourth place and have a Champions League last-16 tie to look forward to this month against FC Porto.

    Malaga's continuing improvement will depend on any success in overturning their UEFA ban based on Financial Fairplay ruling, as reported by Sky Sports. The club are appealing against the one-season suspension from European competition, according to ESPN.

Cardiff City

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    Cardiff City may finally be on the verge of overturning years of underachievement with a historic first promotion to the Premier League.

    The Welsh club have had to watch fierce rivals Swansea City enjoy the limelight in the top flight for the last two seasons.

    However, after falling at the playoff stage for the past three seasons, the Bluebirds are currently 10 points clear at the top of the Championship table and are clear favourites for promotion.

    Cardiff manager Malky Mackay, who succeeded Dave Jones in 2011, looks set to succeed where his predecessor failed by leading the club to the Premier League with the help of players such as Craig Bellamy and Peter Whittingham.