Smit takes first step in world defence

The reigning FIFA Interactive World Cup winner, Andries Smit, has booked his place in next year's Grand Final in Berlin after coming from behind to win the Dutch qualifying event.

The 18-year-old from The Hague moved one step closer to retaining his world crown by beating Nick Laurora 3-2 in a closely fought final in which he found himself 1-0 down at half-time. "It feels amazing," said Smit. "I'm so pleased that I will have the chance to go to Berlin and try to win the Grand Final for the second year running."

The FIWC qualifiers formed part of an annual gaming exhibition in Utrecht, Gameplay, and for Smit they marked a return to competition following his success last year. If there were signs of rust when he lost 4-3 in his second game in the group stages, he soon rose to the challenge against opponents eager to beat the defending champion.

His final opponent, Nick Laurora, performed impressively in his first major tournament. The 14-year-old, who was a spectator at last year's FIWC event in Amsterdam, said: "It was great to get to the national final and get the chance to play against such a good player as Andries."

Among the spectators at the event were Dutch Under-21 internationals Boy Waterman, Milano Koenders and Ryan Donk, who all tried their hand at the virtual game.

With qualifying concluding this weekend in the Netherlands and Hungary, the next spot in May's grand final will go to the winner of the Korean qualifiers which take place in Seoul on 23 December. For more information on how you can participate in the FIWC, please visit