Danish delight for Mathias
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In an impressive basement venue beneath one of Denmark’s largest newspaper businesses, Mathias Funder made headlines today as he claimed the FIWC10 Denmark Live Event and secured his place at the Grand Final, to be held in Barcelona in seven weeks’ time.

The journalists at work on the floors above the Denmark Live Event will no doubt chronicle the performance of this young virtual athlete who now shares the weight of FIFA World Cup™ expectations with the Denmark national football team.

"It will be incredible to be the one to represent our nation, but it is a big responsibility. I will do my very best to win in Spain," said the delighted 17-year-old from Naestved, who will represent his country on 1 May at virtual football’s very own FIFA World Cup.

FIFA World Cup fever
Having narrowly missed out on both the 2006 FIFA World Cup and UEFA EURO 2008, the Danish people are brimming with excitement about Denmark’s presence at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa this summer. Danish football fever was clearly visible in Copenhagen today.

It was fantastic to be here, to meet all the other players. I still can’t believe that I won and that I get to go to Spain.
Denmark Live Event winner Mathias Funder.

The queue of FIWC10 hopefuls stretched for hundreds of meters and players arrived as early as five in the morning, waiting bravely in the cold in order to ensure a place in the competition. Today’s event was the culmination of a number of Nordic pre-qualifier events that took place throughout Sweden, Norway, Finland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. The quality of play clearly reflected the diversity and magnitude of this live event, with Scandinavia and Eastern Europe’s finest virtual footballers competing for the Nordic crown.

Semi-finals set up classic derby
The semi-final draw resulted in one all-Danish encounter and one all-Swedish match. The draw immediately created a buzz of excitement amongst the large crowd, who were now eagerly anticipating a classic Denmark-Sweden derby in the final match. Mathias saw his way past local favourite Rasmus Kolding to make the final. Meanwhile in the Swedish semi-final, 27-year-old Ulf Ekroth enjoyed an incredibly entertaining match and strolled to an 11-5 victory.

The big finish
There has always been an intense football rivalry between Scandinavian neighbours Denmark and Sweden. The rivalry has intensified of late with Denmark qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, in part, at the expense of Sweden. Emotions were running even higher than usual for this grudge match. The patriotic Danish crowd certainly played their part, edging on Mathias as he took control of the game, quickly racing to a 3-0 lead. Ulf launched a sterling counter-attack but never quite managed to claw his way back into contention. Mathias powered home to seal a comfortable 6-2 victory.

Following his victory, Mathias savoured the moment. "It was fantastic to be here, to meet all the other players. I still can’t believe that I won and that I get to go to Spain,” said the new Nordic champion. Mathias is not over-confident when discussing the FIFA Interactive World Cup crown, but based on his performance today the Danish champion certainly has what it takes to make a play for virtual football’s biggest crown.

Live Events in full swing
FIWC qualification is running at full throttle in March as gamers battle it out for an all-expenses-paid trip to the FIWC10 Grand Final in Barcelona. Online qualification is in the final few weeks and there are still five live qualifiers set to take place this month. Tomorrow ushers in the French National Final before FIWC10 moves to Italy and Japan next weekend. On 22 March, FIWC heads over to England. The final two live events will be held in Brazil and Australia and will take place in during April. To find out where your nearest Live Qualifier Event is please visit the destination section on www.FIFA.com/FIWC