Overwatch World Cup: Who to watch in the Group Stage

by Josh Bury Oct 27 2016
Thumbnail image courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

The Overwatch World Cup will get underway at BlizzCon Opening Week on Oct. 29, and the results will narrow the field from 16 to just eight teams.

Unlike other events at BlizzCon, the World Cup features national teams made up of players voted in by fans. That means that one of the biggest challenges the rosters have ahead of them is how well they can come together and represent their country on-stage.

With the drawing of the groups on Oct. 21, the tournament's early matchups were revealed. Now, before the first Dragonblade is unsheathed, we look at which teams will make the cut, and which will be taken apart.

Group A

Bury Dosza
First Seed Pick Sweden Sweden
Second Seed Pick Canada Canada

Many will point to Group B as the event's strongest overall, but Group A could be a hidden gem. It has the potential to showcase some great matches.

Sweden has always been an FPS hotbed, and from the looks of this event the Swedes plan to carry their dominance into Overwatch. Streamers and celebs need not apply: composed entirely of top-tier competitive players, this roster is one of the scariest in Anaheim, at least on paper.

Opponents should rightly fear DPS pair Kevyn "TviQ" Lindström (Rogue) and André "iddqd" Dahlström (ex-Fnatic), but they're not short on strong supports either, with Sebastian "Zebbosai" Olsson (Misfits) and Sebastian "chipshajen" Widlund (Team EnVyUs). Though some rosters at the event have opted to put players with less competitive experience at the tank position, Christian "cocco" Jonsson plays tank for Team EnVyUs, and should feel right at home.

Team Canada has had a few changes since fan voting concluded, with Whiz dropped from the roster and replaced by Method's Randal "Roolf" Stark. The team will be leaning on their solid DPS lineup with Lane "Surefour" Roberts (Cloud9) and Andrew "id_" Trulli (Team Liquid) to carry games against stronger teams. They also have some esports veterancy with renowned SC2 pro Chris "HuK" Loranger.

Spain has several players from top teams, and absolutely cannot be disregarded. Tank Sergi "Winghaven" Torras (REUNITED), support Jonathan "HarryHook" Tejedor (Team EnVyUs) and DPS Jose Antonio "BromaS" Ramos (Team Dignitas) all have made their mark on some of Overwatch's biggest stages.

Brazil is the likely underdog. Though the team have several players with experience in that country's competitive scene, they will need to bring some surprises if they want to move on.

Group B

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First Seed Pick USA USA
Second Seed Pick Russia Germany

Welcome to the group of death, where the teams are stacked and the matches will be explosive.

Leading off Group B is the United States, who filled their roster with well-known players from a variety of organizations. Only one member, ster, is not part of a pro roster, but he's currently one of the top Overwatch streamers on Twitch and is signed to Luminosity Gaming.

Team USA's main strength lies in their flexibility, with NRG eSports teammates Brandon "Seagull" Larned and Daniel "Gods" Graeser capable of playing a wide variety of heroes for any situation. Ronnie "Talespin" DuPree (Team EnVyUs) is arguably the best Pharah player in the world, and Adam "Adam" Eckel (Cloud9) and Adam "MESR" De La Torre (Team Liquid) are a strong foundation that the team can depend upon. With the hometown crowd on their side, the team has the motivation and the skills to go far.

Contrast that with Russia, who demolished Italy, Israel, Bulgaria and Switzerland on their path to the World Cup. The team is a mix of well-known players like Andrei "uNFixed" Leonov (REUNITED) and George "ShaDowBurn" Gushcha (FaZe Clan), and players who are still fighting to make their mark in international competition, like Ruben "Rubikon" Zurabyan (ANOX).

Team Russia originally had Alexei "cYpheR" Yanushevsky on their roster, but he was replaced by his ANOX teammate Kiryl "Anak" Nikalayenka. It remains to be seen how Russia will adjust to the tossup at the World Cup.

Germany had to change their roster after Martin "BUR1X" Buric (mousesports) encountered visa issues and was replaced by Dominik "Ruster" Waffle (Luminosity). The team will be led by EnVyUs captain Dennis "INTERNETHULK" Hawelka, whose leadership has led the team to dominate North American competitions. Keep an eye on the duo of Artur "art1er" Bischof (ex-Dignitas) and Arthur "Eissfeldt" Marx (Luminosity), whose DPS play will be needed to create opportunities.

Chile rounds out the group, and much like Brazil, it's made up of lesser-known talent. Three of their players play for White Panthers, but with little history against international opponents it's hard to predict how they'll fare.

Group C

Bury Dosza
First Seed Pick South Korea South Korea
Second Seed Pick Finland Finland

Though South Korea and Finland are the favorites for Group C, Australia and Taiwan might have what it takes to upset our predictions.

If there's one advantage that South Korea has over other teams, it's their experience at international competitions. Three of the players come from Lunatic-Hai, who placed second at the APAC Premier, while two others play for the Afreeca Freecs Blues, who placed 5th-8th. All are currently competing in the OGN Overwatch APEX Season 1, and they've shown the ability to take the fight right to their opponents no matter the map. Led by Gong "Miro" Jin Hyuk, expect the South Korean team to favor aggressive play and take risks to get the job done.

Finland is home to the three support/three tank meta developed by Ninjas in Pyjamas, who are represented on Team Finland by Joonas "zappis" Alakurtt, Kalle "hymzi" Honkala and Lauri "mafu" Rasi. Though that style of play may see some use at the World Cup, the team has other options as well, with Timo "Taimou" Kettunen (Team EnVyUs), one of the best DPS players in the world, dependable DPS Jiri "LiNkzr" Masalin (Dignitas) and Jani "Tseini" Kähkönen, a former TF2 pro who most recently played for Luminosity.

Team Australia and Taiwan both have the rare advantage of having a solid core of pro teammates that are used to playing together. Australia features four players from Tempo Storm AUS, while Taiwan has five members of ahq e-Sports Club. Whether that will be enough to deal with the raw talent from Korea and Finland is unclear, but both teams are certainly hoping to make waves at BlizzCon.

Group D

Bury Dosza
First Seed Pick China China
Second Seed Pick France France

Team France resembles Team Canada in overall composition. They have one of the best Zarya players in the world, Jonathan "Kryw" Nobre (Misfits), as well as seasoned and confident support player Jean-Louis "KnOxXx" Boyer (Rogue), and Laurent "DeGuN" Prinderre, who played for nearly a year with melty eSport Club before they disbanded. The rest of the team is made up of popular streamers and content creators. By no means does that mean France is in trouble, but they will need to find quick chemistry to make it past groups and deep into the bracket.

China's team would have been composed entirely of players from Invictus Gaming's sister teams Fire and Ice, if not for visa issues that sidelined Fire's Yang "Tresor" Shuoyu and Guan "LINKIN" Yuede. Stepping in are Snake eSports' Zhou "HuaMao" Xiaolong and Zhou "Pangge" Yu.

China's results against other regions at recent international events like the APAC Premier have been disappointing. Of the teams represented here, Snake went the furthest at APAC, making 5th-8th in the playoff bracket after a 3-0 loss to NRG eSports. Still, they should find a way out of the group, given the competition.

The remaining two teams both hail from Southeast Asia, and their players have had relatively little success on the international stage. Singapore defeated Malaysia and the Philippines at the Asia-Pacific Qualifier to earn their spot. Fans of other Blizzard games may recognize Marcus "Revenant" Tan, who played StarCraft 2 and was a member of Heroes of the Storm roster Relics that competed on the 2015 Road to BlizzCon.

Thailand's squad beat Japan and Hong Kong to get to the group stage. All but one of their members were part of Team WeedTime, a Thai Overwatch roster that won the Overwatch Thailand tournament. It appears that most of their competition so far has been domestic.

Like Brazil or Australia, these teams could surprise, but they haven't shown us enough so far to be worth laying odds on.

Josh "Gauntlet" Bury is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

Preston Dosza is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.