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World Cup 2014 views from Tokyo: Bosnia, Switzerland and Italy

by Mark Buckton

Special To The Japan Times

Sulejman Brkic
English and French teacher, 44
(Bosnian)

Who is your man to watch?

Since I’m from Bosnia, I guess it is a Bosnian player, Edin Dzeko, but then I’m really rooting for Ecuador, and the man to watch for me is Antonio Valencia, who also plays for Manchester United — a great player.

How far do you expect Bosnia and Japan to get?

Hmm, to be honest, I’m not sure. I mean, the ball is round, you know, so there is a lot of luck involved, but I hope they go far — all the way to the top and beyond.

Which game are you most looking forward to?

Well, any matches involving Ecuador and Bosnia.

Who do you expect to win, and which dark horses could upset their plans?

I’m rooting for Bosnia and Ecuador, so those are the dark horses, I guess. I hope one of these two — maybe Ecuador — wins the World Cup. It’s my way of thanking them for defending Julian Assange (of WikiLeaks) and freedom of speech!


Sarah Fuchs
Graduate student, 26
(Swiss)

Who is Switzerland’s man to watch?

The Swiss man to watch is Xherdan Shaqiri. He is currently playing for Bayern Munich. He’s very fast, a very good player, definitely, very accurate in passing — definitely the man to watch in the Swiss team.

How far do you expect Switzerland and Japan to get?

I hope both teams make it to the semi-finals. I think they can definitely pass the group stage and, well, then it’s going to be a bit harder, but they both have good teams, and Switzerland’s current coach is Ottmar Hitzfeld, who has won the Champions League with two clubs, so I think that’s very good for the team.

Japan is very strong and very creative, so I think they can definitely make it to the semi-finals.

Which game are you most looking forward to?

Well, that is the semi-finals, because that’s where Switzerland and Japan might meet and, yeah, I really hope that that’s going to be an exciting game.

If Japan doesn’t make it that far, maybe Switzerland will meet Spain, and we won against Spain in the last World Cup, so I think we can do that again.

Who do you expect to win, and which dark horses could upset their plans?

I think Germany is going to win. I mean, they have a very good squad and I think they should finally make it after some years of not-so-good World Cups.

And, well, dark horses . . . maybe Belgium — they have a really young team — or Uruguay, because they have good strikers.


Francesco Formiconi
Fashion company COO, 49
(Italian)

Who is Italy’s man to watch?

Italy has not yet confirmed the 23 players for the World Cup. In the shortlist of 30 there are two players I am very much looking forward to seeing: One is Giuseppe Rossi and the other is Ciro Immobile.

Rossi is a very prolific scorer and a very skilful player, but he is coming back after a long injury, so there is a question mark over him, while Immobile was the top Serie A scorer last season, and I think he is very young and very strong, and he is always a pain for the defenses he plays against.

How far do you expect Italy and Japan to get?

Well, statistically speaking, Italy reaches the final of the World Cup every 12 years, and this time it is not the 12th, because last time was eight years ago, so I think looking at the group’s line-up, (Italy’s run) may well end in the group stage.

For Japan, I think they are actually at best-eight level, and from there, anything can happen. Alberto Zaccheroni is a very skilful coach and Asian players are very fit during this part of the season, so I think they can do very well.

Which game are you most looking forward to?

The first game, Brazil vs. Croatia, is very interesting for me, first of all because I hope the Croatians play as well as they can, as not only versus Italy but also when they play against the home side (Brazil), and then I’m looking forward to seeing Italy vs. England and, if it will be, Italy vs. Japan — it’s going to be a derby at my home.

Who do you expect to win, and which dark horses could upset their plans?

Well the winner, it’s easy: I think it will probably be Brazil — which would also avoid any social unrest and dramas like there were in the ’50s.

As dark horses, I think all the South American teams — Uruguay and Colombia may do very well — and, among the European sides, Belgium, because they have a very young and strong team. Not being a favorite is a big advantage in this tournament.

Download a FIFA World Cup group-stage wall chart in PDF form, packed with opinions culled from these interviews and facts about the tournament.

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