Alex holds his nerve

Alex Barets, a 17-year-old from Bordeaux became France's FIFA Interactive World Cup champion on Sunday 9 March at the Galaxy Foot exhibition in Porte des Versailles, Paris. In doing so, he secured the right to represent his country at the FIFA Interactive Grand Final in Berlin on 24 May.

Hundreds of willing FIFA 08 players turned up on the first day of the event in the south of Paris in order to register for the competition. Although 128 places were available, demand was such that they were filled within ten minutes of the doors opening.

Four regional finals had taken place in Bordeaux, Marseille, Lille and Lyon prior to the Paris event. From each of these regional finals came four competitors to compete in the French Grand Final.

However, a series of heats took place on 7 and 8 March in Paris to determine who would make up the remaining four places at the French Grand Final. The 128 were swiftly whittled down to four and they joined the regional finalists for the main event.

The 'great eight' met in a restaurant near the Champs Elysees in the centre of Paris for a meal before being taken to the Galaxy Foot Exhibition. The competition began at 3pm, with the eight being divided into two groups. Each player took part in two group games, with the top two competitors from each group taking part in the semi-finals.

The final saw Parisian Arnaud Bourgois meeting Bordeaux's Alex Barets. Arnaud enjoyed a 2-1 lead at half-time, but a superb second half display from Alex saw him score four goals without reply to take the tie 5-2 and earn a place in the FIFA Interactive Grand Final.

"It's an honour to win the opportunity to play against the world's best interactive players and represent my country," said Alex. "It was a tough final in which I played against a friend who I play against online all the time. The pressure was huge but I play well under this kind of pressure."