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World Cup views from Tokyo, Group H: Japan, Colombia, Senegal and Poland

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, group H:

Yukari Tanaka (Japanese)

Who’s your team’s man to watch?

I don’t really have a specific player I’m focusing on, since the coach changed at the last minute. I’m actually more interested in seeing how the Japanese team will play as a whole, how they function as a team, because I feel like the 23 players haven’t changed since four years ago. I think it’s more interesting to see how the similar players will make a difference at this FIFA World Cup.

Which World Cup game are you most looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to Portugal and Spain, playing on the 16th, because for one, they’re really good teams so you can’t really tell which one will actually win — so a thrilling match. Also, because (Andres) Iniesta recently signed with Vissel Kobe, so I’m excited to see how he will play, and also I’m a huge Cristiano Ronaldo fan, so I’m genuinely excited to see him perform on pitch.

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

As much as I want Japan to go as far as they can, I think it will be challenging for them to even get through the preliminaries for a couple of reasons — one, because the other teams they will be playing against, their FIFA world ranks are really, really high; and also because, as I mentioned before, the coach changed last-minute, so I think it’s hard to bring everyone onto the same page in such a short amount of time.

So who’s going to win?

Well, I would say my desire is Japan, but that’s actually a really tough question. Germany is ranked first so I’d say maybe Germany, but I think Argentina also has a good, good chance. Portugal has a good chance as well; Spain, we’ll see. I’m not really sure which team will win, but lets hope Japan.

Ruben Dario Narvaez Mesa (Colombian)

Who’s your team’s man to watch?

OK, the Colombian team, for everybody in Colombia, we have two very important, big players: James Rodriguez and Falcao. These two are the power of Colombia team.

Which World Cup game are you most looking forward to?

My preferred match is Colombia and Japan. I am from Colombia, it is my country, I was born in Colombia. Twenty-five years living in Japan, in my heart, Japan is living too. But it’s very important, more interesting, I have two feelings: Japan and Colombia. My wife is Japanese, my son is Japanese and Colombian, but I am, first (and foremost), Colombian. Very interesting.

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

I think in Colombia, now we (play) good football. I think we are going to be in the last best eight teams.

So who’s going to win?

I think in this World Cup, the final will be Brazil and Germany. These are my two options.

Gueye Oulimata (Senegalese)

Who’s your team’s man to watch?

I think the team’s star is this guy called (Sadio) Mane. He’s doing really great in Europe right now and I think he is the one to watch in this World Cup.

Which World Cup game are you most looking forward to?

The one game that I’m wanting to see is apan against Senegal because I live in Japan and I’m Senegalese, so I’m really looking forward to that one. Even though it’s on a Sunday night, I will still watch to the very end.

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

Well, I think Japan might go all the way up to the quarterfinals if they are lucky, but I know Senegal will actually win the World Cup. I think they will, so let’s wait and see.

So who’s going to win?

I hope and I know Senegal will win for sure — we have to win.

Krzysztof Orzel (Polish)

Who’s your team’s man to watch?

Definitely No. 1 is Robert Lewandowski, the striker of Bayern Munich, the top striker of the Bundesliga and also the top striker of the Polish national team in the last qualifications for the World Cup. He’s also the best striker in the history of the Polish national team.

Which World Cup game are you most looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to the first knockout stage game, so once we advance out of the group, the first game against probably Belgium or England. I think that will be most important game in the tournament for our team.

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

Well, that’s a tough question. It’s the World Cup, everybody wants to win, nobody’s there just to show up.

I’m counting on Poland and Japan advancing out of the group — that for me is the bare minimum. I will be happy to see them in the round of 16, which would be against probably Belgium or England, so I’m looking forward to this game.

How far? I don’t know. Once (Poland) gets over (that stage), I think that team spirit will be high and then who knows, maybe we will go all the way.

As for Japan, I hope that they will advance out of the group — yes, together with Poland.

So who’s going to win?

Who will win the World Cup? That’s a hard question. Of course there are some obvious candidates like Brazil but, well, Poland is in the game, so I hope Poland. I would love to see as the final game Argentina against Poland — that would be exciting.

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