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Europe's World Cup contenders await draw

Europe's World Cup contenders await draw
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Ahead of Friday’s draw we look at the favourites among the major European contenders.

Defending champions Spain have well secured their place in the history books but their quest for more trophies appears undimmed.

No European side has ever won the World Cup in South America and such a triumph would cap Spain’s already burgeoning list of honours.

Germany – Loew’s title quest

Germany are looking for their first title since Euro 96 and hopes are high the young guns can do the business in Brazil.

Dominant in qualifying, this German side is arguably the most talented and versatile in decades however their back line has struggled for consistency and they have been found wanting… but only in friendlies.

Despite steering his team to a final and two semi-final spots in the three tournaments since he took over 
in 2006, Loew will not go down in German football 
history as a success unless he emulates predecessors Sepp Herberger, Helmut Schoen, Jupp Derwall, Franz Beckenbauer and Berti Vogts, who all won titles.

Italy – the dream is real

Italy have lacked inspiration in the final third in recent month with many of their frontline selections flattering to deceive. But on the face of it, the four-time winners should be considered among the favourites to lift the World Cup.

Since Cesare Prandelli took control of the Azzuri in 2010 they have reached the Euro 2012 final and they qualified for the trip to Brazil with two games to spare.
No one can doubt Italy’s formidable tournament record and a knack for saving their best performances for when it really matters.

Van Gaal’s Dutch delight

The Netherlands were the first European 
country to book their place in Brazil, ending 
the year unbeaten in 13 games, but are still 
far from the quality product that came so 
close to lifting the World Cup in 2010.

However, coach Louis van Gaal has overhauled the team in the wake of a disappointing Euro 2012 tournament, where the highly fancied Dutch lost all three of their group games.

Recent friendlies have shown up some weaknesses but they are sure to go brimming with confidence.

England – Hodgson’s selection headache

England qualified for the World Cup with an unbeaten
record as European Group H winners. A rousing finale to their campaign brought three wins and a draw from their last four matches, during which they conceded just one goal.

Coach Roy Hodgson, who has previous World Cup 
experience with Switzerland in 1994, has emerged with credit from the campaign and will spend the next few months considering which young players to take to 
Brazil alongside the established names.

Portugal – a point to prove

The technically-savvy Portuguese are expected to go beyong the group phase.

It is in their DNA to play a possession game, ripping defenders apart with short passing, but they can also mix this with long passes into space for the likes of the pacy Ronaldo and Nani to run on to.

Although they endured a difficult qualification they reached the final in style with an impressive win over Sweden with captain Ronaldo netting all four goals.

France – the young pretenders

France were always going to struggle to qualify being in the same group as favourites Spain but they scored more goals and came through in style after a ego-bruising defeat in Ukraine.

They remain the wild card in the pack because of their unpredictability but on paper the young squad coach Didier Deschamps has assembled has just about the right ingredients to go far.

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