France's Bruce Grannec won the FIFA Interactive World Cup 2009 Grand Final in sun-kissed Barcelona, beating Ruben Zerecero of Mexico 3-1. The exciting finale was the climax of a memorable event that was jam-packed with surprises.
Grannec only reached the final after a dramatic last-minute semi-final win against Czech Republic's Pavel Kluka. It was, however, the title-deciding duel with Mexico's Zerecero that would prove Grannec's toughest assignment of the tournament. The thrilling final began with the Frenchman taking an early lead. The formidable Mexican drew level at the start of the second half. Grannec held his nerve, however, and sealed the championship with two late strikes.
"Maybe I don't seem that excited because I prefer to celebrate inside, but I can tell you that I'm very happy about this."
When it was all over, Grannec was congratulated by FIFA Executive Committee member Chuck Blazer. The grinning Frenchman received a cheque for USD 20,000, a stunning Kia Soul car and an invitation to the FIFA World Player Gala in 2010.
"I am absolutely thrilled," said the champion afterwards, revealing the same cool-headedness that served him so well during the event. "It was a very demanding tournament. Maybe I don't seem that excited because I prefer to celebrate inside, but I can tell you that I'm very happy about this."
Tough competition stirs emotions
The event, which kicked off at midday, brought together the 32 top EA Sports™ FIFA 09 players in the world, some of them travelling all the way from Egypt, Brazil, Australia and India for the opportunity to become the FIWC 2009 Champion. And with such a talented field, including competitors who spend up to 30 hours per week training, the standard was sure to be higher than ever seen before.
An indication of just how tough the competition would be came in the opening group phase, when last year's champion, Alfonso Ramos of Spain, went crashing out of a strong section which contained Brazilian Andre Buffo, Germany's Patrick Straschek and Englishman Chris Bullard. The untimely exit had a clearly disappointed Ramos ruing his misfortune. "All the games were really close and I had a chance to score late on in all of them. I couldn't take them, though, and in the very next move I'd concede a goal. Obviously I would have liked things to have turned out better, but there's always next year."
Another of the afternoon's major stars was Portuguese teenage prodigy Francisco Cruz. The 14-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo fan made light of his seeming inexperience to claim a thoroughly deserved third place.
An unforgettable setting
The matches were not the only memorable component of a truly wonderful day. Barcelona's Marina provided a spectacular backdrop and completely disproved the theory that gaming and the outdoors do not mix. Set against the sea and tucked between the city's two most popular beaches, the Barceloneta and Nova Icaria, the venue provided some stunning views for competitors and fans to enjoy.
The central focus of attention was the main stage, where the decisive matches were held, with games also being relayed on a big screen to allow the crowd of over 8,000 to follow all the action. There seemed to be no end to the day's entertainment. Among the other attractions on offer was a beach soccer pitch, VIP lounges, a ‘speed gun zone' where fans were able to test how hard they can kick a ball, and a games hall featuring the latest releases from EA Sports™ and Sony PlayStation®.
A spectacular day
In between games there was plenty to keep the fans happy, with the Komball ball jugglers getting the party off with a swing, helped a little later by the Dreamcheers cheerleaders. John Farnsworth, known as the world's greatest football freestyler, entertained the crowd with his amazing ball skills before vocal artiste Beat Master G took to the stage. Once the awards ceremony was over, a salsa group made sure everyone got their feet moving, capping a superb day of entertainment in style.
All in all, it proved to be an amazing event, one that has raised the bar for future editions of the FIFA Interactive World Cup, a tournament that has now cemented its reputation as one of the most eagerly awaited dates for millions of football and FIFA 2009 video game fans.