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World Cup 2014 views from Tokyo: Uruguay, Colombia and Japan

by Mark Buckton

Special To The Japan Times

Helen Rivero
Ex-teacher, now full-time mother, 44
(Uruguayan)

Who is Uruguay’s man to watch?

I really want to see Luis Suarez, but now I think it is a bit difficult because of his (recent knee) surgery, so I think we have to pay attention to Abel Hernandez. He’s another striker. Maybe he’ll be a good replacement for Suarez in this World Cup.

How far do you expect Uruguay and Japan to get?

Uruguay are an experienced team; they’ve been playing together for at least four years, so they know each other. I hope they can have a really good World Cup, like in South Africa (in 2010).

I’m really looking forward to seeing Japan, because in the last World Cup they really impressed me. They are fast and have good technique, but they still need to be the strongest on the field. I hope they have a good World Cup too.

Which game are you most looking forward to?

Uruguay-England, because in the last week a lot of things happened around Suarez’s injury (arguably caused by a clash with Welshman Paul Dummett), so people in Uruguay think this is a plot against Suarez and Uruguay. And English people think, “What? It’s nothing; we did nothing about that,” so, more than before, I really want to see this match.

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

Brazil is the favorite. I think this is their World Cup, and Brazil has a strong team. Luiz Felipe Scolari is a really good coach. They know how to motivate the players and he is respected in the country. I think Argentina and Germany will be dark horses, but I think the main point here is to know how Brazil can manage the pressure from its fans.


Ricardo Quintero
Researcher, 31
(Colombian)

Who is Colombia’s man to watch?

There are many people to watch this year. The main striker, Radamel Falcao, got an injury playing for the French league in January, so, because of that — although he helped us a lot to get to the World Cup, he played a special role during all the qualifiers — we are hoping he’ll get his strength back in time. He is now concentrating, training with all the team now. But if he is not ready, then we can always rely on James Rodriguez. He is very young and a very promising player — very skilful. And also we have Carlos Bacca, playing now at Sevilla in the Spanish league, and the last one — a very good player as well — is Juan Guillermo Cuadrado at Fiorentina in the Italian league, so those are very, very good players, all of them.

How far do you expect Colombia and Japan to go?

Well, this year, Colombia and Japan are in the same group, right, so it’s quite special. We — everybody around my workplace and my friends — are looking forward to the match, and since it’s the last match of the first round, it’s a match that is going to decide a lot for both teams. So I would say both teams have a lot of possibilities of going to the knockout stage, and being very, very positive, they may both reach the quarterfinals, although I would say, coaches-wise, both — Jose Pekerman for Colombia and Alberto Zaccheroni for Japan — are very, very good coaches, so I would say it would depend on their strategies, so, to be very, very positive, quarterfinals for both teams.

Which game are you most looking forward to?

Well, there’s lots of very interesting games here. I’m looking forward to the replay of the last World Cup final — Spain against the Netherlands again. I’m looking forward to seeing those titans clash again.

I’m also looking forward to the England-Italy game. Both of their leagues have been traditionally the strongest — two of the strongest — in Europe, so it’s going to be very interesting, especially how those two types of football styles are going to meet there in the World Cup. Another match, of course — Colombia and Japan — is the one I’m most looking forward to.

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

Following the trend, this curse — that no American teams can win in Europe and vice versa — I would say South Americans may have an advantage. They are strong on their own soil. Brazil, although they have very strong players now, I don’t know very much about their strategy or how their team works now. I would say dark horse-wise, Argentina — well, not a dark horse but they have a special strong team, and nobody seems to pay a lot of attention to them, but I believe Argentina has a very, very good chance of getting as far as the semifinals or even the finals.

And who will win? Well, Brazil will have the psychologically enormously important support from the people, so they are a very big candidate for that. From the European part, if we can break this trend, I would say Germany has some options.


Madoka Kaneuchi
Patent firm, 34
(Japanese)

Who is Japan’s man to watch?

Our man to watch is Shinji Okazaki. He’s a very aggressive player and plays in Germany, and he’s scored the most goals for Japan (recently), so I’m really expecting (him to do well).

How far do you expect Japan to get?

I really hope that they win through their games and go to the best four.

Which game are you most looking forward to?

If there is a chance, I would really like to see a match between Japan and Italy, because last year there was the Confederations Cup and it was a very good game but Japan lost, so this time I want to see Japan win.

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

I’m not sure, but I guess Brazil will win. And dark horses: Japan. People in the world are not expecting Japan to win their (group) games, I think, so I really hope Japan will go through.

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

  • Jamie Bakeridge

    Dark horses Japan? Give me a break.