Our trip into the World Cup through the words of the Premium Liiga expats continues with some of Group C, D and E protagonists: Japan (C) England, Italy (D) and France (E)
Part 1 (Brazil, Spain)
Part 3 (Bosnia-Hercegovina, Nigeria, Germany, Portugal) - tomorrow, Saturday the 14th of June
Line-ups prepared by LineupBuilder.com/2014
JAPAN: RISING SUN CAN SURPRISE
In Estonia, 'Japan', means Hidetoshi Wakui, the Nõmme Kalju trequartista settled in Tallinn since 2011.
When he is asked about his country's chances at the World Cup, his answer might surprise many: 'Japan can make it in the first 8 teams (meaning they will reach the quarter finals - edit)'
Who can help Japan achieving an historic result (the best they have made it is the eight of finals)?
'I think Shinji Okazaki can play a key-role for Japan at this tournament'. Okazaki accounts for Japan's best quality: 'we have a strong forward line' confirms Toshi 'but the defensive line is the weak link. Especially in the aerial game, we might suffer'
If many of his teammates at Kalju will gather to watch together in front of a big screen downtown, the Japanese Wizard will prefer to follow the World Cup from the quietness of his home: 'because i just like to watch tactics when i watch the game'.
ENGLAND: THE 1966 GHOST
Whenever the England name is made side by side with the World Cup one, all memories go to 1966, England's lone success and benchmark for any future endeavour.
Something also our resident reporter, Englishman Chris Johns, is well aware of: ‘There's always optimism when it comes to the World Cup or the Euros but expectations have dropped a little bit in recent years’ admits Chris. ‘We've got a team with some good, exciting youngsters in, as well as some older heads. I think we lack of a bit of depth and experience though, so qualifying from the group stage and giving the second round a good go would probably be a good effort.’ Chris already looks at the future ‘I'd love to see some of the newer players make a big impact though.’
When asked about the key-player for the Three Lions, Chris sidelines both Rooney (deluding at final tournaments) and Gerrard (maybe overloaded with responsibilities in the middle of the park): ‘personally I'm looking at Daniel Sturridge to step and provide some firepower. He scored a cracking goal against Peru last week and his club form has been tremendous.
So, what the strong and weak point for our English reporter turned into England fan: ‘Fearless attackers’. Chris explains further ‘We've got some fairly confident and tricky players in the squad this year and I think it could work to our advantage. Sturridge, Oxlade Chamberlain (although he looks to be out), Sterling and even Lallana have little experience but their confidence is what could make the difference for us’
When fingering at the weakest link that could put off England, Chris has not doubt: the defence. ‘Gary Cahill has played the most club games of any England players this year so he's merited a place in the team, but we lack any genuine, commanding centre backs. John Terry is the obvious omission, but I think sometimes we need to stand by our morals and not give in to pressure to bring players like him back. Jagielka will probably be the second centre back, but I worry about our backups.’
Chris will be watching England World Cup from three different countries and according to how far Hodgson&Co. will travel themselves: ‘I'll watch the group games in my flat here in Tallinn, probably. If we happen to get to the quarter finals, I'll be in Poland so will watch it there. Then for the semi's and final I'll be back in the UK, so I can watch whoever gets that far from home. However, I'm not too confident of an English garden party to celebrate our success!’
When comes to memories, the WC ones are indeed loomed by the ’66 phantom: ‘I don't think I can give you a positive story about England and the WC as I was born post-'66 and that's all we care to remember!’ admits Chris, probably hoping to be refuted in the next month. His memories are again connected to travelling: ‘I'll never forget missing the 'Germany 1 England 5' qualifying game in 2001. We were travelling home in France with the caravan and got the timing wrong. I turned on the TV in Calais to see the score in huge letters in front of me. I also watched the 'Germany 4 England 1 - ghost goal' match of the 2010 WC in a sports bar in America....several burnt-skinned Brits throughing pitchers of beer at 10am, screaming and swearing about 'soccer' to a country that didn't really get it.’ Not the case of Brazil, the live of …aherm, ‘soccer’.
ITALY: WE WON’T GET FAR…
Nõmme Kalju’s striker, Damiano Quintieri is not very optimistic about Italian adventure in Brazil: ‘we won’t get very far as we don’t have neither quality nor experience’ says the Kalju’s nr.9 without specifying if Italy could already pack the bags after the group stage. Real pessimism or Italian typical superstitious understatement before a big competition?
Whichever interpretation we might give to Damiano's tranchat judgement on the 'Azzurri' future at the World Cup, Italy can rely on their best qualities which have pushed them in the past to unhoped-for achievements (World Cup 2006 and Euro Cup 2012 final): ‘the squad cohesion and a strong will to perform’ are the virtues that could fill in the gap with lack of quality and experience.
When asked who the key-player could be, Damiano doesn’t think twice: Antonio Cassano. The Bari-born fantasista (who will wear the iconic nr.10) is the one who can give something more to the Italian creativity.
‘I will watch Italy games using streamings on the computer’ says Damiano who doesn’t have any particular story connected with the World Cup.
FRANCE: BENZEMA CAN PUSH THE COCKERELS TO THE SEMI!
Allan Kimbaloula, left-flanker at Nõmme Kalju is quite confident: ‘France can reach the semi-final’ told the 22-year-old Tourcoing-born. When coming to the key-player who could make the difference, Allan has no doubts: Karim Benzema. Kimbaloula, himself an offensive player with the habit of scoring (6 goals in 12 appearances this season and a call-up for Congo’s National Team with coached by Frenchman….) sees the strong point of the ‘cockerels’ in the forward line: ‘Benzema and Ribery can give headaches to any kind of defence’. We chatted with Allan just few hours before an official announcement excluded Ribery from the competition due to injury. A great setback for Deschamps&Co.
The problem is the mentality: ‘additionally Deschamps will have to manage several egos’.
He will watch France at home with special company: ‘definitely together with my country fellow Reginald (Kalju’s midfielder also grown at Lille academy - edit) and if France will clash with Italy or Portugal, we will add either Jorge (Rodrigues) or Damiano (Quintieri) (laughs)’.
When coming to memories connected with the World Cup, he reveals us that in 1998, notwithstanding France was playing home, he was supporting the Brazilian side: ‘after they lost the final 3-0 to France I was crying’ confesses Allan who was only a 6-year-old kid back then. ‘The reason why I supported Brazil had a name and nickname: Ronaldo ‘El Fenomeno’’