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, group G:

Tom Hinchliffe (English)

Who’s your team’s man to watch?

I think Raheem Sterling is gonna be the player to watch this World Cup. He gets a lot of negative press unfairly in England, and he’s just got a gun tattooed on his leg, his shooting leg. Anyways, it’s going to be very interesting to see if he cracks under all the pressure or he rises to the challenge.

Which World Cup game are you most looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to seeing England play Belgium. Belgium have got a really great team and it’ll be great to see how our Lions do against them.

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

I really hope England make it through the, through to the knockout. I think Belgium will win our group, England will probably come second, but we haven’t won a World Cup in 52 years so my hopes really aren’t high. Japan? I don’t know, the quality of Japanese football is not that great. I really hope they get through to the knockout stages, but I doubt they’ll make it through the groups.

So who’s going to win?

I have a strong feeling it’s going to be France this year. In the matches I’ve watched they look really, really good. So that’s my pick.

Aala Kanzali (French-Tunisian) and Mehdi Fliss (Tunisian)

Who’s your team’s man to watch?

Mehdi: My first player, I think, the top of Tunisia, is Ferjani Sassi probably. I really like him; he’s calm and he keeps up the tempo of the team.

Aala: For me it’s (Wahbi) Khazri — he had a great, great season this year with Rennes in France. I think he’s gonna have a great World Cup.

Which World Cup game are you most looking forward to?

Mehdi: Probably the first one — we will agree, I think, on this one: England is going to be a challenging game. So, yeah, looking forward to it.

Aala: I’m excited about it. It’s like the revenge for ’98. I’m waiting for it.

Mehdi: Exactly, exactly — it’s gonna be a good game in terms of sport, but also in terms of emotions, because it was a stressful game, I would say, in ’98, so yeah.

Aala: A lot of bad memories come up, so we just wanna have our revenge.

Mehdi: Yeah, exactly.

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

Aala: Can we say we will win?

Mehdi: I hope Tunisia will win the World Cup but I’m not sure, so I hope they go through the group. I think the first game will be crucial, so if we win the first game, probably we have a chance to pass the group at least.

Aala: I think for the first time we will pass the group — England, Belgium, they’re good teams but not that great. Usually at World Cups they are not really great teams, and Panama it’s only their first time, so maybe.

Mehdi: Maybe we’ll have chance to pass the group, hopefully.

So who’s going to win?

Mehdi: I think maybe France, I would say to be honest, because they have a huge squad — like, really powerful guys, big stars as well you know. If they manage to play together (as a team), I think they may win the World Cup. So that’s my expectation

Aala: I think Argentina, because it’s going to be the last world cup for Messi and usually when you win a World Cup you have a huge great player — it’s always about a great player like Maradona, like Ronaldo, like Ronaldinho, and France, they don’t have like a huge great player.

Mehdi: Yeah, like a leader, that’s true.

Aala: And I think Messi’s going to have a great World Cup because he wants to be the best player ever.

Mehdi: It’s probably also his last chance to shine in a World Cup, so yeah, he’s gonna be very motivated, I would think.

Jakin Wan (Belgium)

Who’s your team’s man to watch?

Belgium’s player to watch is Eden Hazard. He’s had a season of ups and downs with Chelsea, but he’s been doing a very good job now in the warm-up games, so I think he will be the star of the Belgium team at the World Cup.

Which World Cup game are you most looking forward to?

I’m most looking forward to the game between England and Belgium, because first I support Belgium and England is actually my second favorite team.

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

I think that Japan won’t get past the group phase. I hope they will, but I’m afraid they have some very tough opponents in their group, and I have seen that their form hasn’t been great recently. They also had some problems with their coach being fired a few months ago — I don’t think it’s good for the preparation.

I think Belgium, they could go to the semi-finals because they have a more experienced team compared to the previous World Cup. And yeah, I really hope they’ll get that far and, who knows, even lift the trophy at the end.

So who’s going to win?

I think Brazil will win because after their humiliation at the last World Cup against Germany, they’ll be really keen on winning the World Cup, and also to prove to the nation that they’re still the strongest team in the world.

Download your Views from the Street World Cup wall chart here.

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