All eyes on South Korea and France at the Overwatch World Cup
3:07 PM ET
- Aron Garst
The path to the 2018 Overwatch World Cup has gone through cities like Incheon, Los Angeles, Bangkok, Paris and -- this weekend -- Anaheim, California. We've seen France and South Korea win their home stages in dominant fashion, but any one of the eight countries in attendance could show up to win it all.
South Korea, China, the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, France, Finland and Canada will meet at BlizzCon on Friday and Saturday to see who will be crowned this year's champion. It's the first world cup since the inaugural season of the Overwatch League and the talent gap between regions has shrunk dramatically -- long gone are the days of South Korea being the clear leader.
"Overwatch League has unified the regions and has allowed the best play to flourish. In previous years, the best players have been isolated purely to competing in tournaments like APEX in South Korea," said Overwatch Contenders commentator Thomas "Tridd" Underwood. "Allowing all teams and players to compete against everyone else at the Tier 1 level sets a great foundation for a level of skill normalization."
The competition will kick off Friday with the USA taking on the UK, South Korea taking on Australia, China taking on Finland and France facing off against Canada.
Can South Korea three-peat?
The biggest storyline on everyone's mind is whether or not South Korea will be able to repeat their 2016 and 2017 success once again. At present, France's powerhouse roster and the unpredictable nature of the USA's play are the biggest threats to South Korea's expert-level execution.
"This is the closest the field has been since 2016 and there are reports that South Korea does not have nearly as much prep going into the event as other favo rites have," said Overwatch commentator Dakota "Rapture" Lasky. "Since 2016, other regions have closed the skill gap tremendously against South Korea. While I still think South Korea will take the event, they've never looked more vulnerable."
South Korea has gone through last-minute roster changes with New York Excelsior players Kim "MekO" Tae-hong, Park "Saebyeolbe" Jong-ryeol and Hong "ArK" Yeon-jun getting replaced by Seoul Dynasty DPS Kim "Fleta" Byung-sun, London Spitfire flex tank Kim "Fury" Jun-ho, and NYXL support Jeong "Anamo" Tae-seong. Replacing three NYXL players with three players from separate teams could lead to chemistry issues, especially with the change taking place a few weeks before BlizzCon.
"South Korea has been known historically as the team that plays predictable compositions executed with more nuance," said Overwatch commentator Christian "Heu rix" Thomasser. "The US has to use this to their advantage by creating strategies that directly counter the and strategies of South Korea in an effort to shut them down on a holistic level."
Those last-minute changes could mean that South Korea isn't as prepared as previous years, opening up a lane for France or even the United States.
"I think we're going to see France defeating South Korea in the final match," Lasky added. "But by a very close score."
A Cinderella story in the making
While all eyes are on France and South Korea, Australia has shocked the world by just making it to the top eight. "This team qualified for the final stage with only one player in the Overwatch League and no one outside Australia or Pacific Contenders," Lasky said. "And they have to play South Korea in their first match. If they defeat them, it would be one of the greatest upsets in competitive Overwatc h history."
Australia drew the unfortunate card playing South Korea first, having only squeaked by Sweden and Denmark in the Bangkok qualifier in September. This early matchup is one to watch as we'll get a taste of where South Korea is at early on -- and we'll witness a miracle if Australia is able to pull out a victory.
Defeating South Korea would be a long shot for Australia since their roster is similar to what it was in 2016 and 2017. The key to their victory would be in LA Valiant player Scott "Custa" Kennedy, Ashley "Trill" Powell and Dario "Akraken" Falcao-Rassokha playing exceptionally well to rally their team. Australia is a small region in terms of Overwatch talent, so their arrival in the top 8 is a big deal in itself.
Storylines to keep an eye on
China's matchup against Finland is one of the most unpredictable ones of the tournament, as it could go either way. "Team China is almost a super-team of Chinese Contenders players. They have Krystal from T1w, Shy and Guxue from LGD and more," said Lasky, who was a caster for Contenders China Season 2. "Guxue especially is absolutely one of the best Chinese tank players right now, and he has a strong argument for being the actual best Chinese tank."
While the talent is there, China doesn't have as much top-tier experience as other teams heading to BlizzCon. Finland, on the other hand, was able to give a serious challenge to South Korea at the Incheon group stage, although no one is sure if that was due to Finland being a stronger team or South Korea falling from grace.
"I think Finland is a winnable matchup for China," Lasky added. "But Finland's higher expected synergy -- three members of the team have been on the roster since 2016's world cup and another since 2017 -- and larger Overwatch League experience will likely swing things in their favor."< /p>Source: Google News South Korea | Netizen 24 South Korea