World Cup 2014 views from Tokyo: South Korea, France, the Netherlands and Spain

by Mark Buckton

Special To The Japan Times

Sunnie Han
(South Korean)

Who is South Korea’s man to watch?

That’s a good question. There are a lot of great players in the Korean national team this time, but I would pick Jong-Woo Park, because he was the one who really did a good job in the South Africa World Cup back in 2010.

How far do you expect South Korea and Japan to get?

That’s a tricky one given the historical and contemporary situations between Japan and Korea, but I would say that I would support both teams from my bottom of my heart. I believe that Korea will probably go far, hopefully to the semifinals, and also Japan as well to the semifinals or further than that. You never know who’s going to be the dark horse this time.

Which game are you most looking forward to?

That’s a rather good question. Putting aside all the national background, I would pick (a theoretical game between) England and Brazil. Those two countries are very strong in football but they have very different modes of passion. England has a very cooled- down, very European fashion, and at the same time, Brazil is the country of passion, so I would pick England vs. Brazil of the matches, and I would definitely go and watch it.

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

I honestly cannot pick a single country that’s going to win the World Cup this time, so I will leave that question, but in terms of the dark horse, I would pick France, because I know there are good players in the team.

Guillaume Boyer
IT consultant

Who is France’s man to watch?

Mathieu Valbuena will be someone to really watch. He’s undervalued by almost everybody around, but I’m a Marseille fan and I’ve seen him playing for quite a lot of years. The guy can make a difference.

How far do you expect France and Japan to get?

I think France will go up to the quarterfinals. Japan: Unfortunately for them, I don’t see them getting out of their group.

Which game are you most looking forward to?

In the first round, Italy vs. England. They are going to be interesting, obviously because they are not the favorites, but they are two very charismatic teams.

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

Winning the world cup? Surprisingly, even though no European nation has ever done it in South America, Spain. Dark horse: Argentina. They’re strong but nobody thinks they’re going to do well.

Luite Douma and Esther Stolp
Economic affairs and policy advisors at Dutch Embassy, 28 and 30

Who is the Netherlands’ man to watch?

Luite: Well, I think the obvious answer is Robin van Persie because he’s our top scorer ever, but the problem is he always kind of underperforms when he plays for the national team, but I think he’s definitely one of the main players for us.

Esther: And I think this time the team will give him more space to perform better — at least I hope so.

How far do you expect the Netherlands and Japan to get?

Luite: I think for Holland it depends a lot on the first match because we’re playing Spain, and of course, in the last World Cup we lost to Spain in the final, so I think if we do well in the first match, then we have a pretty good chance of getting through the group phase.

Esther: And I think for Japan, although they’re in a tough group, they might get through it. They have a good team, so I hope the same, yeah — and then hopefully, of course, get further.

Luite: Yeah, it’s hard to say, but it could go both ways with Japan.

Which game are you most looking forward to?

Luite: Of course the first game, with Spain, because I was in the main square in Amsterdam for the finale of the last World Cup, so, I mean, we lost in extension (time), and there were like 100,000 people out there, so it was really an emotional defeat, so I’d really like to get payback for that time.

Esther: Yeah, I think they will start with this feeling that we are starting where we ended last time, and make up for it this time, although the team has changed a bit, but I think they will win.

Luite: If we could just beat Spain, it will already be a successful World Cup for us.

Esther: That will make them definitely stronger for the next team.

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

Luite: Well, I think Brazil will probably have a good chance, and, I guess, well, I really don’t want Spain to win but they have a good team and, I don’t know, it’s hard for me to say.

Esther: Yeah, I also think that, because of the feeling for Brazil to play at home, I think that that will do well for them, though I think Spain’s very strong as well, but then Brazil has the convenience of playing at their own venues. (As for dark horses,) perhaps Germany. They are ranked quite high, but they’re not playing on their continent.

Antoni Rubio Lopez
Ventriloquist, 33

Who is Spain’s man to watch?

(Midfielder Andres) Iniesta.

How far do you expect Spain and Japan to get?

I think Japan will not pass the group stage, and Spain, the quarterfinals, maybe.

Which game are you most looking forward to?

Maybe, I don’t know, Holland — no, Argentina vs. Spain. Why not? Two very charismatic teams.

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

I think the winner will be Germany, and the dark horses may be Colombia, as it is a strong team and I have Colombian friends.

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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