World Football: 10 Things to Watch out for in 2012

Jack Alexandros Rathborn@@jackrathbornContributor IIIDecember 30, 2011

World Football: 10 Things to Watch out for in 2012

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    Next year is destined to be one of the most intriguing years yet in world football.

    The prominence of Manchester City in the Premier League, PSG in Ligue 1 and, to an extent, Malaga in the Primera Division has clearly increased competition around Europe's top leagues.

    Furthermore, the next batch of ultra-talented youngsters from South America seem set to come to the fore as they showcase their talents in the Copa Libertadores.

    The MLS continues to grow, as the league has successfully introduced two more franchises and will add one more this year. Attendances continue to soar as the MLS has become the 16th most-attended sporting league in the world on average, and more superstars to be added this year will only further this trend.

    The African Cup of Nations is set to take place next month in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, with the standard of African football never being higher.

    With so much happening, you could miss some of world football's most entertaining moments, so put these in your diary...

10. MLS Continues to Grow as 19th Franchise, Montreal Impact, to Make Debut

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    MLS is a league that has made huge strides in recent years and when you consider it's only existed for 18 years, there are some exciting times ahead in 2012 as America begins to take to the beautiful game.

    2011 saw the introduction of the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Portland Timbers with the former finishing dead last and the latter in a respectable 12th place.

    2012 will see a 19th side in the Montreal Impact, Canada's 3rd team, which should increase the rivalry between the Canadian sides.

    Next year should be ever more fascinating, even if David Beckham decides to depart for pastures new, although the BBC report that he is leaning to extending his stay in Los Angeles.

    The Galaxy will defend their title after Robbie Keane inspired them to victory and will look to defend their title this year but as MLS continue to grow the U.S. rules, such as the draft, will enable these expansion sides to become competitive very quickly which should be great to watch in 2012.

9. Campeonato Brasileiro Continues to Grow and Compete with Europe

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    The Brazilian league will look to grow more in 2012 and soon become better than or at least equal to the best leagues Europe has to offer.

    The Brazilian economy is booming and as revealed last week it has surpassed the UK and will reap the rewards from sustained investment over the coming years for the world cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016.

    Many of the country's top players who have succeeded in Europe have been prone to returning home ever sooner than before with wages being supplemented by 3rd parties in order to compete with Europe.

    Not only are Ronaldinho et al coming home closer and closer to their prime but some of the game's elite talents such as Carlos Tevez are ever willing to ply their trade in Brazil and the country's best young talent, such as Neymar, are remaining in the league longer than before.

    Last season's title was decided on the final day with Corinthians emerging victorious as Vasco missed out in a thrilling finale.

    More of the same will take place in 2012, but we need to pay close attention to the talent that the likes of Corinthians can bring in.

8. African Cup of Nations 2012

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    The African Cup of Nations will take place in January 2012 in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

    The strength in depth of African football is getting better each year and this year's tournaments looks set to be highly competitive.

    Ghana will want to build upon their impressive display at the 2010 world cup with Kwadwo Asamoah and Andre Ayew, the latest super talents fulfilling their potential with top European clubs.

    As well as the Black Stars Didier Drogba's Ivory Coast will be among the favourites with Yaya Toure in his prime, Gervinho fresh of a big move from Lille to Arsenal and Seydou Doumbia one of Europe's most wanted strikers.

    Two more teams to carefully watch will be the the co-hosts, Equatorial Guinea and Niger who will both make their debut appearances in the competition.

    Niger's Ouwo Moussa Maazou is one to follow, on the books of CSKA Moscow, after several decent loan spells in France of late.

7. Malaga: Rise of a 3rd Power in La Liga in 2012?

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    Malaga will undoubtedly have an eventful 2012, with the emergence of Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nassar Al-Thani in 2010, the club will be looking to finish the season strongly, potentially with several January transfers, in order to secure a Champions League place.

    Their plan of action, is different to that of Manchester City or most other clubs who have enjoyed immediate investment from a sugar daddy, it seems to be more thoughtful.

    This doesn't mean that success will arrive any slower and 2012 could be the most important in the history of Los Boquerones.

    Currently in 7th place, four points off 4th place that is occupied by Levante who will likely falter in the second half of the season. Osasuna are 5th, one point ahead of them, another club who one would imagine will drop off the pace next year, so they will look to finish above 6th place Sevilla, who are level on points with them, meaning 4th place is certainly achievable this season.

    If Malaga can surpass Sevilla and hold off a push from Atletico Madrid, five points behind them, it seems a formality and this would enable the club to attract a higher calibre of players and push on to become a legitimate 3rd power in this league.

6. PSG: Ligue 1's New Super Power Led by Carlo Ancelotti

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    PSG have made the bold move to install Carlo Ancelotti as manager despite Antoine Kombouaré leading Les Parisiens to the top of the league.

    It is a harsh decision, but the decision had to be made with Ancelotti on the market and without a club to complicate a deal, so that the club could attract a higher calibre of player.

    With Champions League qualification a formality now and in all likelihood a procession to the Ligue 1 title, PSG's ambitions will be changing fast.

    With Alexandre Pato the latest name to be linked with the club, the potential under Qatar Investment Authority is massive and 2012 will be imperative to the continued progression of the club.

    The first six months will be compulsive viewing as a number of top players who will seemingly be signed next month settle in and more are acquired from June.

    The second half of 2012 will be so intriguing to see potentially a 4th league in Europe contribute a regular competitor for the Champions League.

5. Transfers: Potentially More Record Breaking Deals to Come with Neymar, Bale

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    There will be plenty more transfers that will excite all of us, no matter how ludicrous the rumours seem.

    Due to the increased competition in the European game as a whole, there are some exceptional players playing at plenty more clubs that there ever used to be.

    Speculation is rife whenever a player goes through a brilliant spell of form, such as Gareth Bale or Neymar.

    The usual suspects, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United and the new breed of mega-rich clubs such as PSG, Anzhi Makhachkala and Malaga circling to poach the world's best talent.

    Alexandre Pato, Carlos Tevez, Hulk, Neymar, Mario Goetze, Bale, Edinson Cavani to name a few, could all be set for blockbuster moves in 2012.

4. La Liga: Barcelona Real Madrid, El Clasico II

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    Real Madrid and Barcelona are tussling for La Liga and given both teams are arguably fielding their strongest sides in their illustrious histories, it could be the most precious title yet.

    Jose Mourinho has put together an incredible side to dismantle the Blaugrana, who continue to defy logic with the sumptuous football under the guidance of genius Pep Guardiola.

    The first clasico of the year was an emphatic victory for Barça and a marker for next year, despite Los Merengues' three point lead going in to the new year.

    The most intriguing thing about the title race might be the fact that Real Madrid will look to dismantle every other side in the league and maintain a lead big enough, so they can afford two losses to the enemy and still claim the title.

    That victory would be hollow and I am sure Mourinho knows it, so he will have to devise a special plan to take something from the clasico at the Camp Nou.

    One of the most anticipated domestic game of 2012.

3. Premier League: Manchester Derby, United at City

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    The title race in the Premier League might be a three horse race if you ask Harry Redknapp, but ultimately it seems that United and City will compete for the title.

    Ever since the 6-1 dismantling at Old Trafford by Roberto Mancini's men, Sir Alex Ferguson has rallied his troops to win eight of nine games with just two points dropped thanks to a wrong penalty awarded to Newcastle.

    Ferguson will be buoyed in the knowledge he is level on points (at the time of writing) with City despite stuttering somewhat throughout the current campaign, especially as United are notorious for their title charge from March to the finishing line.

    The derby will be extra important given the humiliation that the reds took earlier in the season and no matter the standings leading in to the game, Ferguson will be determined to avenge that defeat.

    On the other hand City have been so strong and perhaps would have expected to have had a large gap between them and the rest at this stage.

    With no Champions League football for either side next year, they will both be concentrating on the league, the EPL will be enthralling in 2012 as the noisy neighbours battle the established champions.

2. UEFA Champions League: Finale at the Allianz Arena

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    The UEFA Champions League has been as entertaining as ever and Europe's elite battle it out to reach the final at Bayern Munich's wonderful Allianz Arena.

    The final should be most anticipated due to Barcelona attempting to reach it and become the first side in the tournament's competition to retain the trophy, with AC Milan last doing it when it was known as the European Cup in 1990.

    Mourinho will hope to win the Champions League with a third different side and Bayern Munich, the most likely side outside of Spain, will hope to play in front of a partisan crowd in order to claim their first Champions League victory in 10 years.

    The English hope will come from Londoners Chelsea and Arsenal, neither of who have won the trophy before.

    It could become one of the most memorable finals ever if Barcelona are able to triumph, not only due to successfully defending their title, but in what will be a significant indication that Guardiola's men are the greatest side of all time with a 3rd success in four seasons.

1. Euro 2012: Germany Aim to Stop Spain Again

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    Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine will be one of football's biggest stories of the year.

    Spain are aiming for an unprecedented third trophy in a row and stake claim to becoming the greatest international side of all time.

    Germany are building to a crescendo though, with some scintillating form in qualification that has led some to believe they are favourites, due to Spain's poor friendly form.

    Holland always have the talent, but the temperament is always in question, but in Robin Van Persie they possess one of the world's most deadliest strikers along with Arjen Robben, who when fully fit, is arguably one of the top five players in the game.

    England will be aiming for a last hurrah under Fabio Capello as it will almost certainly be the end of an era for such established England internationals such as Frank Lampard.

    Lets all hope 2012 is going to be as entertaining in the world of football as this year has been.

    Follow me on Twitter @jackalexandros and @FRcalcioJack.

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