World Cup 2014 views from Tokyo: Nigeria, Ecuador and Mexico

by Mark Buckton

Special To The Japan Times

Nwibo Daniel Don
Pharmacy student, 33

Who is Nigeria’s man to watch?

Well centrally, it is always John Obi Mikel of Chelsea. However, for me, I’m looking out for Emmanuel Emenike of Fenerbahce, Turkey.

How far do you expect Nigeria and Japan to get?

I expect Nigeria to get to the semi-finals. Anything less than that is going to be a kind of failure. As for Japan, I expect them to do very well, considering they have young talented players too, so I expect them to at least get to the semis, but if they can go beyond the semis, that would be wonderful.

Which game are you most looking forward to?

The one I’m looking forward to the most is the Italy-England game, for many reasons. One is the fact that both Italy and England have well-developed leagues — the Premiership and Serie A — and both sides are very close to each other, so I expect both teams to know each other inside out. It’s gonna be a titanic clash, and I’d love to see it.

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

I expect the Brazilians to win because they have their fans behind them, on their own soil — I expect them to win the World Cup on their own soil for the first time in World Cup history, which would make it their sixth time. Talking about upsetting their chances, I foresee the African teams causing some damage to the big boys.

David Villagomez
Diplomat, 36

Who is your man to watch?

Everybody is going to be focused on Antonio Valencia, who plays for Manchester United. He is the most famous, but the one I’m especially rooting for is Enner Valencia. He is in no way related to Antonio Valencia. Enner is now playing in the Mexican league, where he is scoring a lot of goals, so that’s what I’m hoping he’ll do with the national team.

How far do you expect Ecuador and Japan to get?

Ecuador is going to play its first match against Switzerland, and I’m really hoping they’ll win. If they manage that, the second match is against Honduras, which shouldn’t be that difficult. And if they do well in those two, the last match, against France, wouldn’t be that important.

Also, if they get past the first round, they would probably meet Argentina in the second, who would be first in their group. So, probably, if that’s the case, they wouldn’t go any further — not because they don’t play well, but because there are a lot of psychological factors involved.

As far as Japan goes, they have great coach and are very organized. They have a great defense and really good forward players. If they get past the second round, that’ll be really good.

Which game are you most looking forward to?

The one I really want to watch is Ecuador against France because France is a big team, and it is going to be played in the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro. But after that, I basically wish I could watch the entire World Cup, but because of the timing of the showings here in Japan, it’s not going to be easy.

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

For winning the World Cup, Brazil is a very good candidate because, of course, they are the host and everything. But they are not playing as well as they used to, and there are still a lot of other teams that could win it.

The dark horses are the last cup’s winner, Spain. They are a great team. You also have Argentina, who desperately want to get their hands on one, and then you have other not-so-famous teams, like Belgium. As I said, all the teams are really good.

Erick Serrano
Self-employed, 31

Who is your man to watch?

Well there is a player known as El Chicharito — Javier Hernandez, a striker from Manchester United. He’s close to becoming Mexico’s top all-time goal scorer. I’d also say Oribe Peralta — he may be in a better moment than Chicharito right now. I’m also looking forward to seeing what the other guys — like Andrew Guardado, Giovani Dos Santos, Carlos Pena — can do.

How far do you expect Mexico and Japan to get?

I expect both to get to the second stage. As for Mexico, it was such a struggle even to qualify. The team is not going through a good time and many of the people are not expecting too much. But it’s the World Cup, and that makes us believe again in our country, our team and our people, so I hope Mexico win the World Cup, or, at least, get to the semi-finals — it would also be their first time to get there.

Japan have players who play in big teams such as Yuto Nagatomo, Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa, but most of the other players are not kind of world-class players, so the interesting thing will be how much Alberto Zaccheroni and his team cover this lack of individual power with team strategy. They have nice teamwork, so I hope they get to the best eight, where maybe there’ll be a chance for a Mexico-Japan match.

Which game are you most looking forward to?

In the first stage, especially the opening match, and all Mexico’s games, especially the second one, against Brazil. I’m also looking forward to seeing Japan against Colombia; it will be a good one — and a tough one — for Japan. From the second stage, I’ll be watching all the games.

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

It’d be awesome if Mexico surprise everybody as the dark horse of the competition, but maybe Colombia? After a long time, they again have a strong team, like in their golden age in the ’90s with Carlos Valderrama and Rene Higuita. Being more realistic, from Europe, Germany, Portugal and Spain have a chance of winning, but personally I think one of the South American teams will win because they have the home-continent advantage: Brazil, Argentina or Uruguay.

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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