Sako Lancine
“Ambassador of Goodwill,” 32

Who is Cote d’Ivoire’s man to watch?

I think it is Drogba, Didier Drogba, and Yaya Toure, two players. Drogba, as you know, it’s his last World Cup, so this guy, his mindset is like, “It is my last World Cup, I got to do, I got to put everything I have, I’ve got to demonstrate I have been the best player in Ivory Coast, ever,” so Drogba is going to be the man to watch in this World Cup.

How far do you expect Cote d’Ivoire and Japan to get?

Right, I think that first of all, Japan and Ivory Coast will probably pass the group league, so they are the two countries in Group C who are going to qualify — Japan and Ivory Coast. I am pretty sure that at least we are going to reach the quarterfinals. And Japan too, probably the quarterfinals as well.

Which game are you most looking forward to?

It is the first match in Group C, Japan vs. Ivory Coast. That’s going to be a very tight game and Japan, they are very talented players. You have Keisuke Honda, who can shoot from very far. And you have a lot of good players in Japan’s team.

And also on the Ivory Coast team, we have got talented players too. For most of them, that’s going to be their last World Cup. I’m talking about Didier Drogba; I’m talking about Yaya Toure. Those guys they are about 30, 34, 35 years old. So obviously that’s their last World Cup, so they want to win.

And on the other side you have the Japanese team who are going, “No, this time we have to prove we have a strong team. We have to prove that Japan is a strong leader in Asia in terms of football,” so Japan is also going to play well, they are going to be very resistant, so I think this is going to be the most interesting match of this World Cup: Japan against Ivory Coast.

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

I think obviously, from my point of view, Brazil will win the World Cup. They have a good team and they are playing at home, so obviously they have a lot of chances to win this tournament.

On the other hand, I think that Spain also can be an outsider. Spain has a very good chance to win this World Cup as well. The Spanish national team has a lot of good players and also they are a very united team, very talented, and they have won the last World Cup and they have been having a great record, so in view of that, I think Spain is also a good candidate for this World Cup.

Marios Mathioudakis
Head of economic and commercial affairs, Embassy of Greece

Who is Greece’s man to watch?

I think Kostas Mitroglou, a very famous attacker. He used to play for Olympiacos until January, and then he moved to Fulham on one of the most expensive transfers in the history of Greek football. He was the top scorer at Olympiacos, but due to injury he has not played at Fulham yet.

How far do you expect Greece and Japan to get?

Nobody can say for sure, but I think both teams will proceed to the next round. Generally, all the teams in Group C have the same chance. Many Greek players play overseas now in England, Scotland, Germany and, particularly, Italy.

I think we can both get to the round of 16, but from then on it’s very hard to say, as we don’t know which other teams will also go through. But I hope to see both Greece and Japan in the final rounds. As you may know, according to FIFA, in 2014, Greece are ranked 10th in the world.

As for Japan, they have a very good team, with world-famous players such as Shinji Kagawa of Manchester United and Keisuke Honda from AC Milan. Also, as with Greece, many players play overseas, have a lot of experience, energy and discipline, and overall they are a good team.

Which game are you most looking forward to?

Of course, Greece against Japan, because we live and work in Japan, so it holds special interest for us. It will also be nice to watch with our Japanese friends. Also, Germany vs. Portugal, mainly because Germany is also a strong team, and Portugal have such power in their team, fielding many stars, like Ronaldo.

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

I think Brazil, as the host, will be the winner. As a dark horse, Colombia, because they have an excellent forward line, and we must not forget they beat Bolivia 5-0 during qualifying.

Mustapha Mokrane
Executive director, 37

Who is Algeria’s man to watch?

Definitely one of the ones to watch is the player who made Algeria qualify for the World Cup — the captain, Madjid Bougherra.

How far do you expect Algeria and Japan to get?

The Algerian team is an outsider, I guess, at the World Cup. They only just qualified, so if they can make it out of their group, I think that would already be an achievement.

For Japan, again, it is probably not one of the strongest teams in the World Cup, so if they can also make it beyond the first stage, it would already be a big thing — so yeah, I’m not setting the bar very high.

Which game are you most looking forward to?

OK, this would be completely imaginary, of course, but a game I would really love to see a replay of (the 1998 final, with) Brazil against France.

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

Since I would like to see France and Brazil playing again, maybe I would like to see them playing again in the final. So, I would say the winner would be Brazil this time. And for a dark horse, let’s bet on a very strong team: Although I’m not sure about their recent performances, let’s say Germany.

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