Just a few days into the FIFA Interactive World Cup 2012 (FIWC12) and you can already feel the tension. We sat down with some of last year’s Grand Finalists to talk about the world’s largest gaming tournament.

Find out why Spain’s Rafael Sanchez likes EA SPORTS™ FIFA 12 so much, how Australian Mark Azzi gets in the mood for FIWC and what defending champion Francisco Cruz expects from the 2012 Grand Final.

FIFA.com: Hi guys. So how do you like FIFA 12? Any major differences from FIFA 11?
Rafael Sanchez: I like it a lot but it’s just way harder to attack!
Mike Ribeiro: It’s true that it needs more skill but it also gives you more freedom on defense and offense.
Francisco Cruz: That’s why I think it’s the best FIFA game ever; it’s just so much more realistic. When it was released, everything felt different to FIFA 11 but now I’m getting used to it and I think it’s awesome!
Adel Daher: I like it because I think it’s just a completely different game with the new defense system.
Mark Azzi: But don’t forget about the precision dribbling! It makes the game feel like you are in total control. This allows us professionals to move the ball around like Barcelona in real life.

So you all agree that there are some big changes in the new game. Are you already as good at EA SPORTS™ FIFA 12 as you were at the previous edition?
Ribeiro: Of course! I master every FIFA!
Andre Sousa: I also think I’m already as good as last year.
Daher: I’m not sure. I still need to work on my defense.
Sanchez: I’ve only played it for one month so my answer is no.

Is there anything that helps you to get in the right mood when competing in the FIWC?
Wbeimar Forero: Yes, eating heaps of fruits and drinking a lot of water. This way I’m able to maintain my energy.
Manuel Waibel: I always listen to music.
Cruz: Not for me. I just try to play the way I normally do... Sometimes it’s really hard to play because there’s just too much pressure.
Daher: I simply try to calm down before every match and keep my concentration.
Azzi: I think the main thing I do before a big match is clear my thoughts and try to treat is like a real soccer match.

You all seem to be very confident. How do you think you will fare in FIWC12?
Ribeiro: I should be able to qualify like I did in 2008 and 2011. Hopefully i’ll do well like I did in 2008.
Azzi: My biggest goal is to qualify for the Grand Final. The game has grown every year and more players are coming up the ranks. It will be tough.
Sanchez: I think I can win the tournament!
Cruz: Luckily I’ve already qualified as last year’s winner but it definitely means more pressure on me as the defending champion.
Sousa: I’m pretty confident. I feel way better prepared than last year.
Forero: For me it’s all about fair play and I hope that this takes me to victory!

What can players do to get prepared for FIWC12?
Sanchez: Play as many games as possible.
Cruz: Practice against the best players and try to improve your gameplay.
Ribeiro: That’s also what I do. Play the best players and try to learn off them and add it to my game.

Is there any part of your technique that you want to improve on from last year?
Waibel: For me it’s the passing.
Daher: My dribbling skills are a lot better now!
Ribeiro: I'm always the same player. I like to be very good at defense and concentrate on that aspect of the game. If you can defend well in FIFA you will always have a chance at the end, no matter who you are playing against!
Azzi: The main thing is adapting to that change from crossing in FIFA 11 to playing through the middle of the field in FIFA 12.

And if you make it to the Grand Final...
Azzi: It would be awesome if it was in Europe somewhere and we could go watch an English or Spanish football match. That would really be a dream come true!
Daher: L.A was the best experience of my life and i would love to come back.
Cruz: I just want to be surprised. Last year was the best FIWC Grand Final ever so it will be hard to top.