World Cup 2014 views from Tokyo: Brazil, Russia and Japan

by Mark Buckton

Special To The Japan Times

Daniel Lima
Translator, 30

Who is Brazil’s man to watch?

I really think that Neymar — Neymar Santos — is gonna be our best player this year and, as you guys know, he’s fast and he’s young, very skillful, has very good ball control, anticipates the opponents’ moves in a very intelligent way, so my hopes are on him.

How far do you expect Brazil and Japan to get?

Well, when it comes to Brazil, I’m very optimistic. I think although we don’t have many stars this year, but I think this team, I think Felipao [manager Luiz Felipe Scolari] is doing a very good job, the team is very well-connected. The way we are playing now is not only about good players playing in the same team — they’re connecting really well together, so I think we have a good chance to win the cup.

About Japan, I’m not sure. Although Japan now has top players — players who are playing in important leagues in the world — Japan is now in a very difficult group, so maybe Japan is gonna have problems advancing to the next stage. So I think Japan is gonna finish its participation in the group phase.

Which game are you most looking forward to?

I don’t have a particular game I’m looking forward to, because when it comes to the World Cup, I’m the kind of guy who wants to watch basically all the games, even the not-very-popular ones, but I’m looking forward to the first game, Brazil against Croatia. It’s gonna be, well, the first game of the event, and for me it’s a very big opportunity, a big chance to see a World Cup taking place in my home country. For me, it’s gonna be really exciting.

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

Of course, like I said, I’m really optimistic about Brazil winning this World Cup, but I also think that teams like Spain, of course, Germany — Germany now is kind of a young team with very strong players when it comes to the physical side of the game — and also maybe Portugal. Of course, Portugal have Cristiano Ronaldo, and it’s the kind of team that also has a good tradition (of doing well in the World Cup), and as you know, Portugal and Brazil, we have this kind of rivalry, so I think the Portugal team’s gonna have a special feeling about this World Cup. They will try to spoil Brazil’s plan as much as they can. That’s my feeling.

Vladimir Yangirov
Master’s student, 27

Who is Russia’s man to watch?

I think it’s Alan Dzagoev, because the Russian national side is not so young but Dzagoev is one of the few bright young players, and he’s already had the chance to prove himself a couple of years ago at Euro 2012, and I think that this World Cup is his big chance.

How far do you expect Russia and Japan to get?

That’s a tough one. Well, for Russia, more often than not, it depends on psychological stability rather than football skills. Once we clear the group stage, then we can go quite far, but this time, even if we go to the last eight, we’re going to meet most likely either Germany or Portugal, and it’s gonna be a hell of a job to get past them, so my prediction is second round at best.

About Japan, I think the same. They don’t have much experience in the elimination rounds, and the second round for them will be quite hard too, because it will be either Italy, England or Uruguay from Group D, which is already dubbed as a “group of death,” so I don’t think they’ll go too far either.

Which game are you most looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to games with all the big teams, but honestly, I would like to watch Germany vs. Portugal, because I’ve been a huge fan of Germany for a long time, and Portugal now is a wonderful team — they’ve got this inspiring leader, and when this passion meets the German machine, I’m sure it will make for very interesting football.

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

The home-turf advantage for Brazil will be such a huge boon — they already have a great team, and now, with hundreds of thousands of cheering fans — I think their win is not in question at all.

Dark horse? I’m hoping the Germans will show what they really can do this time, and I’m looking forward to them actually going to the final.

Yuki Shinozuka
Singer, 32

Who is Japan’s man to watch?

Keisuke Honda — he is cool, and now he’s playing with AC Milan. He can change games with his technique.

How far do you expect Japan to get?

I think Japan can go to the best four, but it’s not so easy because they have very good teams in the cup.

Which game are you most looking forward to?

Games in Group D — Italy and England — because I’m interested in Europe now. Also, Brazil, any game, too.

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

I really have no ideas. There are so many good teams in the World Cup.

It’s difficult to choose a dark horse. Japan, maybe?

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