It has been a big step up for Blizzard’s smash hit FPS game, Overwatch but the Overwatch World Cup has been a thrill to watch. With dark horses rising to overthrow favorite teams, nail biting overtimes and even tiebreaker games having been played. Overwatch has never felt more exciting to watch, with the quarter-finals racking up over 120,000 people viewing the games on Twitch at the same time! With that being said, let’s take a look at what went down.
Warning – If you haven’t yet seen the matches this recap will contain spoilers.
Overwatch World Cup
The first event of its kind, the Overwatch World Cup is the pinnacle of Overwatch‘s competitive scene. Taking place during BlizzCon, 16 teams around the world compete for international glory, some battling through intense qualifiers and some making it through on tournament seeding. While there is no monetary prize pool this year, competitors get a free trip to BlizzCon and exclusive gear. As esports and Overwatch alike grow bigger, we may very well see the type of prize money we have come to recognize in other popular esports, like League of Legends or Defence of the Ancients 2 (DotA 2).
From a starting crop of 16 teams, half were left behind in the group stages. The World Cup had 4 groups, A to D with teams from the Americas, Europe and Asia Pacific.
Group A saw Spain, Sweden, Canada and Brazil duke it out in a series of heated matches, most notably Spain upsetting Sweden, a team with the benefit of 6 professional players. Both Spain and Sweden made it out of the groups, and went on to the “Round of 8”.
In Group B, we got to witness powerhouse teams such as the USA and Russia along with Germany and Chile go up against each other, with all eyes on the USA v Russia match, sadly for the Americans, they lost 2 games to 1, but to both teams’ credit, a 4th map was played due to a tie on Hanamura in the first game. Both Russia and the USA advanced to the quarter finals, leaving Germany and Chile out of the race.
Group C, felt a little lacking, with South Korea and Finland dominating their pool, despite valiant efforts by Australia and Chinese Taipei. South Korea and Finland are 2 heavy hitting teams, and many expected them to perform at the highest competitive level, so to some, the standings at the end of the group stages were not entirely surprising.
Finally Group D saw China, France, Thailand and Singapore face off in the only pool that had to resort to multiple tiebreaker games. China topped the group with a 4-1 win/loss rate, with France overcoming Thailand in the tiebreakers to send them through to the quarter finals.
The round of 8 brought together the top 2 teams from each pool.
First up was Russia v France, a closely fought game, but in the end, Russia won out with a 2-1 victory, ending on Lijang Tower. The fan voted T-Mobile MVP (most valuable player) of the match was Riley “Kitty” Frost, managing to pull off some stellar support plays with the support character Ana. Sadly, for all their efforts, that was the end of the line for team France, as Russia moved through to the semi-finals.
Next up we had Spain vs Finland, a powerhouse versus the dark horse of the tournament. Finland started off strong despite incredibly tense holds from Spain, edging out King’s Row by 20 meters on the payload, but Spain rose to the occasion and didn’t allow Finland a single capture on Hanamura, tying the series at 1-1. It looked like Spain had a chance going into Lijang Tower, but Finland came back swinging, taking a 2-1 victory and crushing the dreams of the Spanish team. Jose Antonio “BromaS” Ramos was picked as the MVP, playing attack characters masterfully, setting up opportunities using Reaper to take out key enemy targets.
South Korea vs USA was perhaps the most lacklustre series of the whole tournament. USA attacked first on Temple of Anubis and failed to capture either point. South Korea then attacked and had captured the first point within 56 seconds! A blindingly fast victory, South Korea looked poised and ready to rumble on map 2, beating the USA once more by 10 meters on Eichenwalde, South Korea steamrolled USA, and unfortunately knocked them out of the tournament. The one redemption for the US was that Steven “ster” Serge was nominated for MVP, the second Ana player named the MVP, ster was able to support his team and drop some clutch nano boosts onto his teammates and tactical sleep darts onto his enemies.
The last quarter-final pitted China against Sweden, two teams favored to do very well at the World Cup. China however, didn’t look as steady as they had been in Groups, with Sweden able to to take a convincing 2-0 victory. Not surprisingly, Sweden had the MVP –André “iddqd” Dahlström. Hailed as one of the greatest if not the greatest McCree players in the world, iddqd is consistently capable of shutting down high priority targets and laying down damage to allow his team to move in on objectives.
The first semi-final series showcased Finland v Russia, although it wasn’t as close as anticipated. While Finland put up a tremendous fight, they just could not stop Russia’s onslaught, failing to take a map away from the Russians, leaving them with a 2-0 victory. Russia came together throughout the series, gelling as a team and featuring star individual performances like those of George “ShaDowBurn” Gushcha, one of the best Genji players in the world, decimating enemy ranks with surgical precision. ShaDowBurn also received the fan voted MVP for the first semi-final match.
The second semi-final match-up was South Korea v Sweden, in a showdown of titans. Except it didn’t quite pan out like that. South Korea had their game faces on, and for all of Sweden’s expertise and mechanical skill, nothing could stop the force of nature that South Korea had become. Sadly for Sweden, even their best efforts weren’t enough, failing to take a map from South Korea, leaving a clean 2-0 victory as South Korea look to face Russia in the finals. The MVP was Jeong “ArHaN” Weon Hyeop, an incredibly skilled DPS player, ArHaN was able to wreak havoc on Sweden’s composition with well constructed Genji and Mei interference, shutting team Sweden down, and advancing to the finals.
The finals of the Overwatch World Cup set the two best teams against each other in a monumental end to the tournament. South Korea and Russia went head to head in a best of 5 match, starting on Temple of Anubis. Russia defended first, unable to stop Korea, and unable to use their own attack, leaving South Korea with a 2-0 in the first map, putting them 1-0 up in the series. Game number two had a similar theme, with Russia unable to score the first checkpoint in King’s Row, putting South Kore at a clean 2-0 sweep. The third map saw the teams take to Dorado, and again, Russia failed to reach the first checkpoint, South Korea looked to dominate the series at 3-0. Team Russia was struggling to pull together against what looked like an almost invincible South Korean side, and with the fourth map playing out on Lijang Tower, South Korea managed to seal their victory, taking a flawless map victory without dropping a control point. The series MVP was given to Gong “Miro” Jin Hyuk, who consistently performed on Winston, able to harass the Russian backline, and always offering the camera a charming smile.
Over in the 3rd place bracket, a grudge match was brewing with Finland and Sweden facing off, each more eager to win than the other. After a 1-1 start, a nerve wracking end on Nepal saw Sweden snatch a victory over Finland, securing 3rd place. Sweden also had the MVP.
After a grueling set of group stages, quarter-finals and semi-finals, 2016’s Overwatch World Cup winners were South Korea, looking strong from the outset and finishing even stronger, not only claiming international glory for themselves, but remaining entirely undefeated through2out the whole tournament.
A compelling start to the event’s history, we can only hope that as the years go by, the Overwatch World Cup grows to feature new characters, teams and winners, making a name for itself in the esports world.