In their words
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Over 1.5 million online qualification matches were played in Season 1 of  2010 FIFA Interactive World Cup amongst 409,521 contenders. Ultimately, ten names topped the list, claiming a place at May’s Grand Final. FIFA.com chatted to some of the Season 1 winners.

Africa's champion
Hesham Khater (Legend_never_die) topped both the CAF standings and the global leaderboard making him world No1 for Season 1 – an achievement the Egyptian clearly cherishes. "When I look at the ranking table and see the Egyptian flag in first place I feel a sense of overwhelming happiness," said Hesham.

Fellow Egyptian Goal_Lover was hot on Hesham’s heels for the one CAF ticket and finished second overall. Reflecting on the final weeks of qualification Hesham said, "Those were very tough times. Until the final day I was in second-place, but I think with my experience and determination I was able to snatch first place at the critical moment. Maintaining my CAF No1 ranking for the second-year running was also really important to me."

Europe's elite
Ayhan Altundag (dzs_AyhAn1991) headlined the UEFA zone this season. In FIWC09 however, Ayhan was not so lucky. After maintaining a top three place entering the final month of online qualification he plummeted to 8th place, missing out on a ticket. "I gave everything in the last weeks not to fail again!" said Ayhan, "I postponed all other things to concentrate only on FIWC10!"

The UEFA No1 will be joined in Barcelona by Spain's Eduardo Barron Viela (Viela), fellow Spaniard and 2008 FIWC Champion Alfonso Ramos Cuevas (herzex) and England’s Danny Taylor (FIWC-DTaylor).

American Kings
American duo Nenad Stojkovic (greatestever10) and Giuseppe Guastella (TheSicilian) sweeped up the two available CONCACAF tickets. The pair were neck-and-neck for a good part of the Season. Ultimately Nenad pipped Giuseppe by 28 points for pole position.

"Until the last week I wasn't really worried," said Nenad, "The nervousness came with about three days to go. There was a group of five competitors which had closed down my lead and we were all pushing each other! The battle for the two CONCACAF spots came down to the late hours of the night."

Giuseppe believed in a more casual approach: "I just kept playing high ranked players. I knew the people below me wouldn't be able to pass me; they don't have the experience that I have."

Giuseppe praised his countryman, but couldn’t help but take a dig at him: "He (Nenad) did a good job to hold top place the whole season. We played each other just once and he beat me 3-2. He admitted it was luck; after that one win he didn't want to play me again!"

Asia's Grandmaster
In the east, FIWC veteran Stephen Coorey (FireflyRiver) snagged his fifth ticket to a Grand Final - a new record for an FIWC gamer. Stephen, who believes he has "some unfinished business in the final" talked us through the final days of Asian qualification:

"With only 1 qualifying spot, Asia was one of the toughest regions this season. For the first time in years I had to go head-to-head with Michael Pommer (Le_Pom7) with only one of us able to qualify (usually we both do). Added to the mix was the new kid on the block, Sammy Mort (morty19), who had been striking fear into the world's elite players over the last 6 months. All 3 of us went as hard as we could for the first few weeks before Sammy eventually gave up at the start of December. I think he got a bit of a shock at the commitment Pommer and I showed, as we each played 800 odd games in the first 2 months!"

Underdog down under
Daniel Sykes (nzjoker) edged out goatman44 to claim the Oceania crown and with it a place at the Grand Final. The New Zealander is no stranger to pressure though and surprised a number of people at the FIWC09 Grand Final. "2009 was an amazing experience. Getting out the group stage after beating Steven Coorey and the guy from Hungary, I don’t think a single person there expected that!" said Daniel.

Daniel almost missed out on FIWC10 though and clinched a seat by just 41 points. "The last days were totally insane,” said Daniel, “I had huge problems with my connection which caused me to drop huge amounts of points. I was down and out at one stage, but I was awake for the final 40 odd hours of the competition. It was so close at the end and I was able to just pull it out!”

Liberato keen to lead liberation
For Brazilian Samuel Liberato (creww19), FIWC10 is a chance to break Europe’s hold on the tournament. A European has won the past four FIWC tournaments, while Brazil’s Thiago Carrico de Azevedo, who won the maiden tournament in 2004, is the only UEFA outsider to ever claim the Grand Prize. When asked about Europe’s hold on the competition, South America’s new No1 made his intentions clear: "Clearly Europe produces good gamers, but, even so, I believe that we have a big chance of beating the Europeans this year especially. I’m going to give it my all to bring the title to Brazil."