Incheon, Los Angeles & Bangkok, the first three Overwatch World Cup group stages have been and gone. With six teams already locked in to the playoffs at Blizzcon in November, the last remaining group is the European show stopper in Paris this weekend. With the Lions going up against some of the best nations that the European scene has, we'll be taking a look at our opponents who have been thrown into the den and fed to the Lions.
Alongside the LANimals, the Paris group stage has five other nations. France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Poland. All fighting it out to take one of the last two spots to the knockout stages, from Friday 21st to Sunday 23rd September. The Lions looking to take back what's there's and take another trip across the pond.
The host nation and fourth placed team at 2017's Overwatch World Cup, France come in with changes in their tank line from last years tournament, with Gael "Poko" Gouzerch replacing Nicolas "Nicogdh" Moret (Who's selected as a substitute) at Off-Tank and Benjamin "Benbest" Dieulafait replacing Jean-Louis "Knoxx" Boyer. While staples to the national team such as Los Angeles Valiant's Terrance "SoOn" Tarlier and Dallas Fuels Benjamin "UnKoe" Chevasson are no surprise, the brothers Bignet may have something to prove this world cup. Dylan "aKm" Bignet's half season in was unimpressive to say the least and even has his own measurement of time in blades. While Michael "Winz" Bignet 2018 was best known for analyst Josh "Sideshow" Wilkinson's depiction of him being AFK on the payload as Lucio. Despite this, France are still likely to be seen as the team to beat and won't want to let down their home fans.
Germany come in with whole scale changes compared to last years team, with only DPS players Herman "Nesh" Kobrin and Joshua "cRNKz" Colon returning to the team. With improvements at Off-Tank in Metehan "Mete" Aksut and the inclusion of potentially Germany's first OWL player in support Steven "Kodak" Rosenberger, prove that Germany aren't viewing themselves as the underdog most others are. Lead by British Hurricane GM Ysabel "Noukky" Muller, they will be looking top try and claim a scalp or too from either France or the United Kingdom, while ensuring that the other nations don't try and do the same to them. Expect to see them potentially play a similar role too Denmark from the Bangkok group stage.
Whilst Italy may not be the most well known team, they have grown and improved year on year. This year DPS Edoardo "Carnifex" Badolato and Support duo Francesco "Bimbz" De Luca and Federico "Nisa" Portolani return again and are joined along side some of the rising talent in the tier two and three scenes. Lorenzo "Midna" Nulli comes in at main tank they've improved their tank line by selecting ex-Samsung MorningStars Edmondo "DragonEddy" Cerini as the starting Off-Tank and Aris "LUFT" Galli as the teams sub to bolster their defences. Marco “HearThBeat” Soffia comes in as the teams second DPS choice. They might be the underdogs of the entire Paris group, but expect to see Italy pick up a surprise win or two in Paris.
The Netherlands are small but have some extremely talented and experienced players in their seven man roster. Head Coach Thomas "Morte" Kerbusch know's how to lead teams to success as both a player at Reunited and a former coach at Orgless & Hungry. Ryan "CrusaDe" Van Wegen returns to the international stage as a support in a Lucio meta alongside experienced DPS player Jeffrey "Vizility" De Vires. The only changes to the Netherlands side that finished 0-3 in the Katowice qualifier last year are the inclusion of Main Tank Corn and support Sab. They will either contend and be the surprise package of the whole tournament or falter as they did last year, the Netherlands have no middle ground.
Poland have one player returning from their 2017 team in DPS players Karol "Dayne" Szczesniak, as Mateusz "Matwoj" Holtyn comes in to Paris as the teams substitute player. After an impressive third place last year, Poland will be looking to push on from that performance and if the introductions of the new bred of Polish players turns out as Poland hope it will, you can likely expect them to be the dark horse of this group.
With stage being set, the prey is prepared, the Lions are ready to go into LANimal mode and the Paris group stage spectacular is about to begin.
Written by Arran "Halo" Brown