The final group stage of the 2018 Overwatch World Cup will be held in Paris, France this weekend. Six national teams out of the 24 qualifiers will compete in a round-robin tournament to determine which two nations will compete at BlizzCon in November. As Finland, South Korea, Canada, United States, Australia and China have successfully booked their tickets to Blizzcon, which teams will complete the top 8? Read on for features on each team, players to watch for and predictions. Read about the previous group stages in Incheon , Burbank and Bangkok to catch up on any missed action.
The host nation of this group stage did not need to qualify in the top 20 countries based on the average Skill Rating of the top 150 accounts in the nation. However, with an SR of 4,286, France is in the higher bracket of teams going into this tournament. Team France’s history in the Overwatch World Cup is positive and has gained momentum throughout the years. In 2016, after placing second to China in group stages, France ultimately fell to Team Russia 1-2. 2017’s World Cup had greater success, though, with Team France defeating China 3-1 and falling to South Korea in the Semi-Finals 1-3. They ultimately placed 4th overall at BlizzCon.
With most of the roster from the successful 2017 run reuniting to defy even more expectations, France has a team full of Overwatch League and Contenders veterans. Two players to watch are Terence “SoOn” Tarlier on DPS and Off-Tank Gael “Poko” Gouzerch. SoOn developed into a premier Widowmaker player throughout Season One of the Overwatch League, which when accompanied with his Tracer, gives France great hitscan options to complement Dylan “aKm” Bignet’s projectile heroes. Poko’s aggressive D.Va play will be vital to counter the higher prevalence of Ana in the current meta. Biewers can prepare to see some of the best EMP- Self Destruct combinations in the group stages with Poko in the server.
Team France will look to gain their first victory against the Netherlands on September 21st at 1:00 AM PDT.
Team Germany will need to bring their best to the Paris group stage as the format of this year’s World Cup has been altered so that only two nations will come out of the group stages. They are ranked 6th with an SR of 4,238. This has already led to some disappointment for teams, especially Sweden and Denmark who fell in the most competitive group stage. Germany was named to the top 16 nations that would compete in group stages and playoffs in 2016, but Russia and the United States advanced from their group, leaving Team Germany and Chile behind. 2017 saw Germany’s hopes once again stifled by Team United States, as in the round of 16, Team Germany was swept 0-3.
Expect to see British Hurricane DPS player Herman “Nesh” Kobrin using his Contenders experience to lead Germany to victory on the Widowmaker and the potentially overpowered Sombra. Nesh stood out in last year’s world cup on his Tracer as well, alongside Joshua “cRNKz” Colon who will also represent his home country for a second time. cRNKz’s Genji will be one to watch, especially with the greater prevalence of the Nano-Blade due to Ana’s reemergence in the meta. Team Germany could be the dark horse of this group and will be looking to take early victories against some of the favorites.
Germany will have the chance to dictate the tone of the entire group stage in their first match against the United Kingdom on September 21st at 2:45 AM PDT.
Italy’s national team has had poor performances and unfortunate luck in the past two World Cups, as they have often met high-performing nations early in the tournament. In 2016, Team Italy moved onto the playoffs of the European Qualifiers alongside Russia, yet immediately faced Team Sweden and were swept 0-3. 2017 was even more tumultuous for Italy; although they were ranked 20th out of the 32 top qualifying nations, their group stage performance was heartbreaking for fans of the expressive and lovable team. Team Italy failed to win a single map in group stages, being swept by Portugal, Australia and their old rivals, Sweden. With their nation’s top 150 players’ average SR being 4,116, ranked 12th out of the 20 qualifying nations, Italy has much to prove.
Federico “Nisa” Portolani and Edoardo “carnifex” Badolato are two Italian players who have represented Italy every iteration of the Overwatch World Cup. Nisa will be a key to victory if he is able to make an impact on Ana, while carnifex’s hitscan play must be consistent – look to see his McCree used to counter the ever-prevalent Sombra. While these two players have had the experience to help Italy through nerves and difficulties, according to Amelia Savery, Lorenzo “Midna” Nulli “is the first Italian player to participate in Overwatch Contenders”. Midna’s aggressive Main Tank play in conjunction with Nisa’s healing could disrupt triple-tank triple-support GOATS compositions.
See if Italy will defy odds in their first match against Poland on September 21st at 4:30 AM PDT.
Team Netherlands is ranked 9th overall with an average nation SR of 4,200. Although the nation did not compete in the 2016 Overwatch World Cup, they took the 2017 competition by storm, surprising many viewers. Placed in a group with eventual champions South Korea, Netherlands managed to sweep Teams Poland and Austria 4-0 to qualify for the top 16. Unfortunately they fell to Team Canada in an 0-3 loss, but Team Netherlands proved their ability to compete at the highest international level.
Team Netherlands is hoping to surprise viewers once more, as they will be underdogs in the Paris group stage. However, Ryan “CrusaDe” van Wegen, a support for the British Hurricane and member of the 2017 World Cup team has an opportunity to show off his deep hero pool and compete against his fellow Hurricane’s teammate Nesh on Team Germany. Expect CrusaDe to play the Lucio or Moira most often in this group stage, but he may also pull out an excellent Mercy when necessary. Amelia Savery also noted strong coaching on Team Netherlands – “The coach for this team, Thomas “Morte” Kerbusch, is a former eUnited player who took the Contenders Europe Season Zero championship”.
The Netherlands are looking to upset the hometown heroes in their first match against France on September 21st at 1:00 AM PDT.
Team Poland is the lowest ranked team in this group stage, 17th out of the 20 qualifiers with a Skill Rating of 4,038. In the 2016 Overwatch World Cup, Poland failed to make it out of the European Qualifier group stage, being defeated by Team Germany and Team Baltic and Caspian Sea, both who swept Poland 2-0. Group stages once again were the bane of Team Poland’s progress in 2017 where South Korea and the Netherlands pulled ahead of them and Austria. Poland had a moment of pride when they swept Austria 4-0, but their hopes for BlizzCon were cut short once more.
Karol “Danye” Szcześniak, a member of the 2017 team, has both World Cup and Contenders experience to help lead his team throughout this group stage. Experience aside, Danye is one of the most flexible players on the scene. In a single match from this year’s contenders, the member of the Copenhagen Flames played McCree, D.Va, Zarya, Widowmaker, Sombra, and the list goes on. Watch for Danye’s Genji as well, as Michał “DXtR” Wiencek will be able to cover the Off-Tank heroes for Team Poland, allowing Danye to truly focus on his favored DPS picks.
Poland will face Italy during their first match on September 21st at 4:30 AM PDT.
The United Kingdom will be another team looking to upset the hometown favorites in Team France, with a 2nd place ranking overall as their SR is 4,293. However, their impressive status in the rankings was not always the case. In the inaugural World Cup, Team United Kingdom did not move on from the European Qualifiers, being taken out by powerhouse Finland and Team Iceland. On a quest for redemption, the United Kingdom began 2017’s tournament with a major victory in Group Stages, winning every single map against Germany, Israel, and Belgium. After once again sweeping Chinese Taipei in the Round of 16, Team United Kingdom qualified for BlizzCon, only to immediately lose to Team Sweden 0-3.
Isaac “Boombox” Charles will be the player to watch on this experienced team, even though Jae-Hyeok “Carpe” Lee and Josue “Eqo” Corona stole the spotlight during his Philadelphia Fusion’s underdog playoffs run which took them to the finals. As detailed in Xander Torres’ Playoff Preview for the Fusion, support survivability allowed Boombox to stand out among the other healers in the league. He continued, saying “Boombox started the season slow, but improved his Zenyatta play over the course of the season and stands out as a player whose individual success often leads to the team faring well”. Boombox also debuted an impressive Roadhog in the last matches of the Overwatch League, but expect to see this player providing the foundation for Team United Kingdom on support.
Team United Kingdom’s first match will be against Germany on September 21st at 2:45 AM PDT.
Who Will Qualify for BlizzCon?
Coming off of surprising results from the last group stage, where many predicted Sweden to move on to BlizzCon, the door is open for more upsets in this final group. With the crowd on their side, multiple Overwatch League players with well-rounded hero pools, and Contenders veterans to complete the roster, Team France will qualify for BlizzCon.
Team United Kingdom has the strongest likelihood to join France in moving forward, especially if Boombox is able to provide stable, yet aggressive support play. However, Team Germany will be looking to upset either France or the United Kingdom and must not be ignored. Overall though, this author predicts that France and the United Kingdom will defy any challenges from the four other teams in this group, and be the final two teams booking flights to BlizzCon.
Featured photo courtesy Engaget