Mattia shakes Milan

17-year-old Mattia Guarracino today secured his place at the FIFA Interactive World Cup 2010 Grand Final by winning the FIWC10 Italy Live Event. The Rome native has earned the right to represent 2006 FIFA World Cup™ champions’ Italy at the virtual FIFA World Cup.

Mattia was very relaxed throughout the day’s proceedings and it seems that he will carry his cool and calm approach to the Grand Final. "I am very happy and very proud to be representing my country in Barcelona. The responsibility does not worry me though. I am just excited about playing the world’s best gamers,” said Italy’s new FIWC national champion.

Following a series of pre-qualifier events held all over Italy, including stops in Naples, Genoa and Turin, the players in Milan today represented the best 32 virtual footballers in the country. Among the 32 Italian elite were former national champions’ Roberto Garappa (2008) and Daniele D’Alterio (2009).

I enjoyed today very much. It was a hard tournament but I thought that I could win, and I did.
Newly crowned FIWC Italy National Champion Mattia Guarracino

FIWC spotlight on Milan
Reigning Italian champion Daniele D’Alterio arrived in Milan in a confident mood. "I’m all pumped up for this. I’m really ready!" exclaimed Daniele. The Neopolitan was visiting Milan for the second time in recent weeks. His status as reigning FIWC Italian champion recently offered him the opportunity to visit the famous Milanello training complex and watch his favourite team AC Milan train. Be sure to keep an eye on our series of FIWC Mini-Films to see Daniele’s visit to Milanello which included meeting up with Milan heroes like Ambrosini, Pato and Beckham.

Daniele's most recent trip to Milan will, however, not hold such happy memories. He faced a difficult group today, including eventual champion Mattia. The 2009 champion failed to qualify for the knockout stages, losing out on goal difference.

The visitor
The talk of the tournament was definitely 20-year-old Mohammed Abuzayed from Dubai. Mohammed travelled 3,000 miles to compete in Italy after winning the Middle Eastern Qualification Event held in the United Arab Emirates. D’Alterio faced the visitor in an exhibition match. "I think he may well win this. He is stronger than anyone else that I have played this year," said an astonished Daniele after an emphatic 5-0 defeat at Mohammed’s hands.

Roberto loses steam
Although Mohammed managed to shake things up at first, he was knocked out in a thrilling quarter-final in which he faced 2008 Italian national champion Roberto Garappa. In an incredible match, Mohammed eased into a comfortable 3-0 lead by half-time only for Roberto to make a fantastic comeback. Roberto drew the game level at 3-3 before scoring a deadly last minute goal to claim a 4-3 win. Roberto looked visibly drained after the epic encounter though and he was knocked out in the semi-finals by Ivan Quartararo.

The final
As the final match commenced, Ivan looked strong and took a commanding 3-1 lead. Keeping true to his calm nature, Mattia remained unphased  and continued to play his relaxed style of virtual football. Mattia fought back, levelled the game 3-3 and then dealt the decisive final blow to win the match 4-3.

Looking back on his achievement, Mattia said, "I enjoyed today very much. It was a hard tournament but I thought that I could win, and I did." When asked if he thought that he could win the Grand Final in Barcelona, the new Italian champion's reply was a swift "Yes".

Remaining live events
As the sun sets on Italian FIWC qualification, FIWC makes history in Tokyo tomorrow with the first ever Live Event to be held in Japan. On 22 March, FIWC10 moves on to England. The FIWC10 Live Events will wrap up in April with live events in Australia and Brazil. Meanwhile, Season 2 of online qualification for FIWC10 has entered the final stretch with gamers feverishly trying to climb the rankings before the 31 March deadline. For more information on the remaining FIWC10 Live Events visit the ‘Live Qualifiers’ link to the right of this article.