THE ROUND-UP – The ninth edition of the FIFA Interactive World Cup has made history on the world’s virtual football scene. No fewer than 2.5 million players from every corner of the planet took part in a bid to win a place in the Grand Final in Madrid, yet only a select 21 made it to the Spanish capital.

After the dust settled on the fiercely contested Grand Final action, and despite there being more players from Spain than any other nation, it was a Frenchman who was crowned FIWC champion. Bruce Grannec, the 2009 winner, took the title previously held by Alfonso Ramos and underlined just why they call him ‘The Machine’ on the FIFA13 circuit.

The road to glory was not short on obstacles for Grannec, particularly on the first day of play. Unexpectedly poor early results meant that he needed to win all three of his remaining games – and by healthy margins – simply to stay in the race.

“I got back to the hotel and I said to my team, ‘I can’t go out of the tournament like this, not at this stage,’” said the eventual champion to, just days later. True to his word, on day two Grannec picked up the required three wins, scoring nine and conceding none in the process, to secure a place in the competition’s last eight.

Given how the first day went, being here right now is almost miraculous.

Bruce Grannec on his victory

The rest, as they say, is history. Playing throughout with his favoured Real Madrid, the beaten 2012 finalist defeated August Rosenmeier 1-0, edged out Abdulaziz Alshehri 4-2 on penalties in the semis and then sank Andrei Torres Vivero 1-0 in the title decider, to move level with Ramos as the only men to have won two FIWCs.

“Given how the first day went, being here right now is almost miraculous,” said Grannec, after bagging the trophy, 20,000 USD and a ticket to the next FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala.    

It was not just the champion who came out of the tournament, which featured two newcomers in the last four, with his reputation enhanced. Mexican gamer Vivero proved that nothing is set in stone, giving up on FC Barcelona to instead use Brazil on the final and decisive day’s play.

A Psychology student and part of a competitive video-gaming team, the 23-year-old came agonisingly close to levelling the final with his very last attack, only for his shot to inexplicably veer wide with the goal gaping. “It’s hugely disappointing,” said Vivero, also beaten 5-0 by Grannec in the group phase. “But I’m really proud to have got this far.”

Taking the final place on the podium was history student Rafael Riobo, who played the entire competition as Bayern Munich and heads for home as the competition’s 20-goal top scorer. Fourth spot, meanwhile, went to Alshehri from Saudi Arabia, whose performance eclipsed his quarter-final elimination in 2012.

Ramos falls short
The reigning champion and, prior to this year, the only player to lift the FIWC on two occasions, Spaniard Ramos was very much in the spotlight from the start of the 2013 showpiece in Madrid. However, despite a satisfactory first day, his grip on the title slipped away on day two when two defeats and a draw, without scoring a single goal, handed him an early exit.  

“I played some good football but I didn’t have luck on my side this time,” said Ramos, who had been honoured at January’s FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala, when speaking to “The ball just didn’t seem to want to go in. It feels really strange not to have got to the latter stages.”

FIFA Interactive World Cup 2013 – Grand Final, Madrid

Stanislav Chakarov (BUL) Rodrigo Pileggi (BRA), Andres Botero, Daniel Rodriguez Moyano, Edizon Quiroga (COL), August Rosenmeier (DEN), George Tsirita (ENG), Alfonso Ramos, Rafael Riobo, Rafael Sanchez, Daniel Cordera, Oscar Martin, Marc Arisa (ESP), Bruce Grannec (FRA), Mattia Guarracino (ITA), Kai Wollin, Kevin Assia (GER), Abdulaziz Alshehri (KSA), Andrei Torres Vivero (MEX), Ovidiu Patrascu (ROU) and Juan Ambriz (USA).

1. Bruce Grannec (FRA)
2. Andrei Torres Vivero (MEX)
3. Rafael Riobo (ESP)

Host venues
Hotel ME Reina Victoria (Day I)
Cafe 40 (Day II)
Teatro Goya (Day III)