The final stage of the 2018 Overwatch World Cup Qualifiers takes place this weekend in Paris, France and it looks to be a full-on battleground for EU teams. September 20-22, six European teams will fight to see who joins South Korea, Finland, USA, Canada, China, and Australia at Blizzcon in November. To get there, however, any team will have to work their way through the onslaught of EU’s brightest.
As the host team, France has a lot to prove — and they’re ready to deliver. The core roster of last year’s World Cup team (also the core of former team Rogue) is back to fight for their Blizzcon spot. DPS duo SoOn and akM, sub DPS NiCO, and support players uNKOE and winz are all returning players with rich LAN experience. Philadelphia Fusion’s Poko and BenBest of Contenders team Young and Beautiful are new to the team and build a strong tank line. Despite taking 4th place after falling to Team Sweden in last year’s finals, Team France is the expected first seed of this stage. Expect the usual clutch “Poko Bombs” in addition to flex DPS clutch plays: akM isn’t only a Genji blade meme, and SoOn has more than Widowmaker headshots up his sleeve.
Team United Kingdom
The UK is another team working with the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude: five of their seven players are returning from last year’s roster, with some changes. Kruise (Support) has swapped from playing DPS last year, due to his showing as a support in Contenders. Kyb and KSP are two new DPS additions from British Hurricane and Young and Beautiful, respectively. With the remainder of the roster coming to World Cup 2018 with significant experience, such as Boombox’s (Support) showing on Philadelphia Fusion and Smex (Tank) from NRG Esports, the UK team is stacked and looking to fight France for first seed. Smex has a history of clutch tank plays and Kruise has the capability to shine as a bloodthirsty support.
Players with history make up the roster for Team Germany. Even though many players are currently unsigned by organizations, they come from early Overwatch institutions. Mete (Flex) and Nesh (DPS) are former Bazooka Puppiez members, with the former being known for his spot-on D.Va bombs. The support duo of immortal and Kodak have player histories with Angry Titans and 6nakes, respectively. Last year, Germany barely missed making it to Blizzcon, falling to Team USA in the Santa Monica qualifiers. British Hurricane player Nesh is a notoriously skilled hitscan specialist who will likely make waves this stage.
This year, the Netherlands are hoping to cause some upsets with a mix of skill and experience. A good portion of last year’s players are returning, but many are in different roles. Former tank Jona (DPS), flex CrusaDe (Support), and support Dante (DPS) are hoping their prior World Cup experience brings hope to the team. Team Netherlands nearly made it to Blizzcon last year, falling to Team Canada in the Katowice Qualifier. Expect surprises from tank corn (who has the best name this stage) and sab (Support), as well as continued frags from Vizility (DPS), who made a name for himself on last year’s stage.
Of the teams in the Paris stage, Poland has the biggest chance to bring surprises. With a relatively unknown and mostly new roster, they may be able to use that mystery to cause some upsets. Returning players Matwoj (Flex DPS), Danye (DPS), and setrox (Tank) carry with them the team’s history. At last year’s Katowice qualifier, and as the Host Team, they fell to 3rd place in their group and did not make it to Blizzcon. Hopefully new, talented players will overcome a lack of LAN experience to bring success. Keep an eye on Danye, a skilled DPS currently with the Copenhagen Flames.
Italy is depending on team cohesion to take them to the top of this year’s stage. EU Contenders Trials team Samsung Morning Stars Blue contributes three players to the roster: DragonEddy (Flex), LUFT (Tank), and Nisa (Support). With additions like We Have Org’s Midna (Tank) and longtime Italian DPS Carnifex, the team is looking to reverse their World Cup luck. Last year, they failed to make it out of the Sydney qualifying round, taking no wins in the stage. Carnifex is a player to watch, having been the Italian’s team captain for two years with a history of wild plays.
Matches You Can’t Miss
North Americans finally get to feel the pain that Europeans endured during the inaugural Overwatch League season: these are early, early games. Set your alarms and grab your cereal. I’ll let you know which of these matches are worth the wake-up with a new and improved match rating system!
Matches are rated from one star to four stars.
Might be one-sided – catch if you’re passionate about a team playing.
Better, but might not go to map 5. Worth it for standout plays.
Above-average Overwatch, great to watch.
THE match everyone will be talking about tomorrow.
Friday, September 20
(NOTE: Matches start two hours earlier on Friday than they do on Saturday – plan accordingly.)
- Netherlands vs. France (1:00AM PST/4:00AM EST):
- While France is the expected leader of the stage – and this game – it’ll be interesting to watch the DPS battle between these two teams. It’s also the first chance to see how role switches will have affected Team Netherlands.
- Germany vs. United Kingdom (2:45AM PST/5:45AM EST):
- Another interesting match. UK is putting up a stacked team with significant LAN experience against Germany’s team, which lacks recent play but is still incredibly talented. This match will serve as a good way to see where either team stands.
- Poland vs. Italy (4:30AM PST/7:30AM EST):
- Poland and Italy are at about the same level of skill in this stage, so the match should be rather close. However, the advantage goes to Poland simply for having players with more tournament experience.
- Netherlands vs. Germany (6:15AM PST/9:15AM EST):
- Both of these teams are hoping to play spoiler to the UK and France, whatever the cost. This match could sway the map count in favor of either one. Even though it’s early on in the stage, this is a match that matters.
- Poland vs. United Kingdom (8:00AM PST/11:00AM EST):
- While Poland may be bringing in new talent, UK has the experience and proven record to make this a relatively one-sided match.
Saturday, September 21
- Germany vs. France (3:00AM PST/6:00AM EST):
- Much like yesterday’s game against the Netherlands, this is a chance for Germany to show how well it can stand up to France’s powerhouse status. Hopefully, there will also be a good number of DPS battles considering the strengths of both teams.
- Italy vs. Netherlands (4:45AM PST/7:45AM EST):
- Considering the level of talent coming out of the Netherlands, this should prove to be an easy match for them depending on their handling of the meta. Italy could give them some trouble, though, and in this stage, every map counts.
- Poland vs. Germany (6:30AM PST/9:30AM EST):
- This is a very similar situation to the previous game: the talent of Germany should be able to take out Poland. Outstanding DPS from Poland may prove to be an issue for Germany, who will have to watch them closely.
- Italy vs. France (8:15AM PST/11:15AM EST):
- Italy faces a high mountain to climb in taking on France. With their combined LAN experience and team cohesion, the host team will make it nearly impossible for Italy to take anything off of them.
- Netherlands vs. United Kingdom (10:00AM PST/1:00PM EST):
- This is a match that’s worth watching. If the Netherlands team manages to build up confidence with wins earlier in the stage, their standout talent could give the Brits some serious pause. I believe the overall expertise of the UK tank line will stand up to the Netherlands DPS, but it’ll be interesting to watch them try.
Sunday, September 22
- Italy vs. Germany (3:00AM PST/6:00AM EST):
- Germany has the skill and, at this point in the stage, collection of wins and confidence to make this an easy match. If Italy is able to work some magic, they could take maps off Germany and influence their pursuit of the top two spots.
- Poland vs. France (4:45AM PST/7:45AM EST):
- Even if the skill level is not as balanced as it is in other matches, Poland might be one of the few teams to serve as a roadblock to France’s quick trip to Blizzcon. Their DPS may be able to out-snipe them and their tanks out-damage them, depending on the meta being used.
- Italy vs. United Kingdom (6:30AM PST/9:30AM EST):
- Depending on the map count at this part of the stage, this could rise to a two-star: if UK is in need of maps to stay in the top two, Italy’s job to play spoiler suddenly becomes more important. If not, UK should be able to clutch this out rather easily.
- Poland vs. Netherlands (8:15AM PST/11:15AM EST):
- Another match that changes depending on map count, but will likely be interesting to watch regardless. The skill gap between Poland and the Netherlands is more of a puddle than an ocean, so there should be some relatively decent back-and-forth going on.
- United Kingdom vs. France (10:00AM PST/1:00PM EST):
- Match of the weekend. These are the two expected winners of the stage, and even if both of them are confirmed for Blizzcon at this point (as USA and Canada were two weeks ago), the match will be thrilling. France arguably has the better DPS line, but UK’s improved support line may be able to out-maneuver them. Should be a 5-game brawl at a reasonable time, which is good for everyone.
The France Qualifiers will likely be a repetition of a previous group stage, and probably not the one viewers would hope. I expect this weekend to be more reminiscent of the Los Angeles Qualifiers, in which Team USA and Team Canada rolled to the finish line with few obstacles, than the down-and-out map count brawl seen in last week’s Thailand Qualifiers. The difference lies in the skill gaps between teams. In the Thailand Qualifiers, no two teams were on opposite sides of a metaphorical canyon as far as skill, experience, and luck were considered. It was anyone’s game depending on map count and ability to bounce back from defeat; Sweden’s untimely demise showed that much. In this weekend’s stage, the concentration of competitive Overwatch in certain sections of the EU truly shows.
Team France and Team United Kingdom are the presumed winners of this stage, and for good reason. They’re arguably the two teams comprised of players with the most LAN and event experience, especially Team France. These are two teams that aren’t likely to let nerves get the best of them in front of a crowd. Both teams are stacked with talented players that have had the resources and opportunities to practice their craft, either in the Overwatch League or Contenders matches. This isn’t to detract from the fact that Team France and Team UK have proven to be successful; this is a note that other EU teams may be comprised of players doing their best to carry a competitive lifestyle along with other personal duties.
So There’s A Chance?
If any teams can play spoiler to France and UK, it’s Germany or the Netherlands. Germany has the prior gaming experience to stand up to even France’s resume of competitions. While a decent number of their players may not have competed recently, it’s a skill that doesn’t just disappear with lack of use. With skilled DPS and a solid tank line, Germany may be able to chip at the steel facade of either of the top two teams. If Team UK can’t get a foothold in this meta, Germany may be able to step in and drag some maps from them. Similarly, if France faces a challenge to their pride and can’t regain their “groove”, Germany stands a decent chance at gaining some semblance of a chance in this stage. The Netherlands has a similar goal ahead of them, but may not have the mechanical prowess to accomplish it.
Beyond Germany’s chances, I believe France and UK will make it to Blizzcon in a predictable fashion. Viewers can look forward to a different team meta than they’ve been used to in previous stages; EU Overwatch is a bigger fan of GOATS (or “triple triple”) and tankier compositions. It’ll be up to teams to either take advantage of this fact or find a way to counter it. No matter what, this weekend should give every team a chance to show off European talent to a large audience — and hopefully, scouts for OWL or Contenders.