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World Cup views from Tokyo, Group E/F: Brazil, Serbia and Germany

by Megha Wadhwa and Ben Stubbings

Contributing Writers

As the 2018 FIFA World Cup kicks off, The Japan Times got the lowdown from Japan-based supporters of some of the 32 teams fighting it out for the ultimate prize in Russia.

Today, groups E and F:

Hector de Serpa Pinto (Brazilian)

Who’s your team’s man to watch?

My favorite player in Brazil, of course, is Neymar. We have always had good players, like Ronaldo, Romario, Ronaldinho, and since 2014 Neymar is our leader, and I’m expecting him to drive us to our sixth World Cup, which would be a big record and a massive achievement for us after 2013.

Which World Cup game are you most looking forward to?

Well as a Brazilian I’m looking forward to all the World Cup games, because for us the World Cup is like a wedding, so the the country stops when the World Cup is here, and especially Brazil, of course. I already have alerts set in my phone for all the games Brazil are gonna be playing in the group stage and of course, I’ve already made my bets, so I hope I’m right.

How far do you expect your team and Japan to go?

Well my bet is that Brazil is going to reach at least the semifinals, because I believe we can play Mexico in the last 16 and then another not-super team in the quarterfinals, and then maybe Belgium in the semifinals, so that’s going to be a really hard game. I hope we can pass that, play in the final and win.

Sadly, I don’t feel that confident about Japan — so many changes, they changed the coach and, I don’t know, I watched a couple of friendly games that they played. I hope they can recover, but I believe they’re going to be out in the group stage.

So who’s going to win?

Well, to win the World Cup, it’s difficult to choose one. Maybe France is a really strong team but Germany, Spain, Brazil — they are the four at the same level. Any of them can win the World Cup but we can’t forget Argentina; I hope they don’t win, but Messi’s there, so who knows?

Miodrag Jeremic (Serbian)

Who’s your team’s man to watch?

Two players in the Serbian national team to watch this World Cup are Nemanja Matic and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. They are very good players. The first one is playing for Manchester United and the second one is playing for Lazio in Italy and he’s a really fantastic player and many, many clubs are looking to sign him up this summer.

Which World Cup game are you most looking forward to?

I am looking forward to the grand finale between Brazil and Argentina. I am a huge supporter of the Brazilian national team and I hope they win this time.

How far do you expect your team and Japan to go?

I think that this is the first World Cup that the Serbian national team doesn’t have any superstars. So it looks like a team that is together, with many young players, and I think that we can go through to the next phase because ours is a very strong group, but with Brazil, Switzerland and Costa Rica, we think we can go through the group second after Brazil. As second-place team we are probably going to face Germany in the next round, so this year is gonna be a very tough one. That’s why I think that it’s gonna be really very difficult for us.

So who’s going to win?

I hope that this time the winner of the World Cup will be the Brazilian national team.

Benjamin Rabe (German)

Who’s your team’s man to watch?

Actually, as German football supporters, we always say that our team has no real star player and that we don’t want to win because of a star player, we want to win as a Mannschaft, as a team. And so that’s also the way, how we won the last world championship. But if you ask me for a certain player then I would say Marco Reus — he’s a player of Borussia Dortmund and he’s always been one of the best players in Germany, but (ahead of) last World Cups he got injured in the last matches before the World Cup started. So it’s actually his first time to really show his skills to the world, so I’m looking forward to seeing him.

Which World Cup game are you most looking forward to?

In the case of Germany I’m really looking forward to the match against South Korea because I am supporting football teams in Japan as well, and here there are also a lot of South Korean players, and I would really like to see Germany playing against South Korea again, especially after the World Cup 2002, where we also, I think, played against each other. So it would be really interesting to see Germany against an Asian team again.

How far do you expect your team and Japan to go?

For Germans it’s always like the semifinals is the minimal target that we’ve got. We hope, of course, to win the World Cup but I think I’d be satisfied with the semifinals. And in the case of Japan, of course I also hope that Japan advances, and a final of Germany against Japan would be really nice, but according to the recent training matches of Japan, I really wonder if they will even manage to get through the group stage.

So who’s going to win?

I kind of think it’s one out of four teams. Either, of course, Germany or maybe Belgium — because they have a lot of young players and a lot of talent so I am really looking forward to seeing them — advance as well. And then of course Spain, they’re always strong, and Brazil, because maybe they want some kind of revenge for the World Cup in 2014. Especially if we play against Brazil at some point, I think that would be one of the most interesting matches in quite a while.

Interested in gathering views in your neighborhood or just have something to say? Email community@japantimes.co.jp