The Sydney group stage of the Overwatch World cup started with explosive force. The first day set the tone for the rest of the weekend and the overall expectations were thrown out of the window. Sweden who were a clear favourite to win the whole tournament without opposition were hit hard and fast by a powerful Portugal team. Australia had started the day with their expected result of 4-0 over Italy but the fact that not only could Sweden lose rounds but whole matches to an unexpected side like Portugal set the crowd up for an exciting weekend.
Finland performed as expected against Vietnam on the first day, shutting the less experienced team down easily enough for Taimou to put on a bit of a show of skill for the audience. The auditorium was awash with yelling and celebrations as Taimou demonstrated his superior technical skill with DPS champions, getting eliminations that didn’t even seem humanly possible.
And then along came Japan.
Spain was full of confidence when they came into this tournament but Japan were quick to show them humility as their hyper aggressive plays shut them down time and again, leading to a 3-0 victory for Japan over Spanish side. Like Finland, Japan had their own DPS expert in AKTM, who was more than happy to show the world the strength of his McCree. My own words do not give justice to the ability of this player, but be sure to keep an eye out in future matches for his name.
Throughout the first day the crowd was lively and obviously very excited for the game, the analyst desk had a good feel for the crowd and the casters were quick to make jokes that often had the crowd laughing. But like the matches, the first day was only a taste of what was to come.
As day two started up the crowd was obviously excited. Fridays matches between Japan/Spain and Portugal/Sweden had been so unexpected that everyone was keen to see what other upsets this tournament might bring.
The crowd was not let down.
Finland, a very dominant force in the ESports scene, fell in a complete wipe to the reinvigorated Spanish side. Spain’s Harryhook back on Soldier: 76 where he was obviously far more comfortable and the Spanish 3 dps team composition putting a pressure on the Finnish back line that they didn’t seem to know how to respond to properly.
Portugal, despite a strong start on day 1 were unable to cope against the home team though, as they put up a valiant fight but ultimately lost 4-0 to Australia. Similarly, the Sweden vs Italy match was another expected 4-0 result to the now vengeful Swedish side, who were looking to reclaim those lost points from the first day and position themselves better for a shot at Blizzcon.
The last match of the day was again Japan, this time facing against the Vietnam side. As the day came to a close though Vietnam was unable to put any points on the board and Japan had all but secured their position in the playoffs for a Blizzcon spot.
The second day lacked some of the intense impact from the matches that we had gotten in day one but the crowd and the casters were still as full of energy as if they had just started. The banter between the analyst desk and the crowd grew further and the overall festival like feeling of the tournament continued to grow.
The final day, the longest and most demanding for fans and players alike, was one I will never forget.
A slightly later start than normal on day 3, so that the Australia vs Sweden match could air on 7Mate’s gaming show “ScreenPlay” meant that they auditorium was standing room only by the time the first match got underway and the Australian crowd was in top form with periodic chants of “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie” being yelled by nearly 2000 people.
The crowd however was let down when Australia fell to the powerful Swedish team in a though 3-1 series. Despite the loss, the crowd was still incredibly supportive of all good plays and even when Sweden was winning, the noise was incredible.
As the day carried on the matches were a lot less one sided with than the day before, with the exception of the Japan vs Finland match which ended with a 2-2 draw. Securing Japan’s playoff spot and knocking Finland out of the running the moment Spain won a single match. Portugal showed another dominant performance over Italy and Spain beat Vietnam with little real trouble.
Finally, after over 20 hours of playtime, the playoffs were upon us.
Sweden vs Spain and Japan vs Australia.
The first playoff match, preceded much as the ones in the Shanghai group stage had. With the obviously better Swedish team getting a clean 3-0 win over Spain in the best of five series. But the match that the whole weekend had been building towards was the Japan vs Australia series. Two teams who not many people had expected much of but had gone on to wipe out most of their competition.
Going into the last series, Japan looked to be in a stronger position. Australia had lost 3 matches earlier in the day while Japan had fought the very strong Finland team to a decisive draw. Once the matches started though everyone in the crowd knew that we were in for a wild ride.
Japan had won over many fans with AKTM’s amazing plays and the teams incredibly humble presence on stage. The Japanese team went from unknown to world famous this weekend, of that there is very little doubt.
The next hour and a half, nearly two hours was a mad back and forth of intense matches as Japan forced Australia in corner after corner and the Aussie’s responded in kind. Finally bringing the series into the Overwatch World Cups first, Sudden death round. Australia were given the pick of map and decided to go with Oasis, its first appearance this weekend, most other teams opting for Lijiang Tower, Ilios or Nepal.
The Australia team must have been keeping their mastery of this map a secret because the Japan side seemed to have no answer for the onslaught that was bought upon them. Every player on the Australian side dug deep into their reserves and pulled out a back to back point control win, securing their spot at Blizzcon 2017. The standouts in the last moments of the match were ieatuup and Aetar, both dps on the Australian side finding the vulnerable spots in Japan’s defence and wreaking havoc on their back lines before they could properly engage onto the point.
At the end of it all I was hyped up beyond words. Even after writing all this I know I have left out so much about what happened this weekend. The individual plays, the banter between the analysts and the crowd and even the personal interactions I had with people whose names I never even got. The Overwatch World Cup was one of the most amazing events I have every attended and I look forward too many more in the coming years.
For now though, we are looking forward to the next group stage in Poland where both South Korea and Russia are waiting for their own shots at Blizzcon positions. But first they must make their way through the fierce competition of their own groups. Hopefully, next weekend brings as many surprises as this weekend did in the world of competitive Overwatch.
If you missed any of this weekend matches or even just want to re-watch them. They are available for viewing over at Twitch (https://www.twitch.tv/playoverwatch/videos/all)