Sydney is bittersweet for Sam
© FIFA.com

24-year-old Sam Mort from Manly, Sydney, grabbed the last remaining Grand Final seat for the FIFA Interactive World Cup 2010 today. The Australian Live Qualifier, the last of the FIWC10 Live Events, took place over a beautiful sunny weekend at the Sydney Royal Easter Show. Of the 64 national finalists that started out today, Sam finished top of the pile to secure his trip to Barcelona.

After winning the event, Sam was delighted but visibly shell-shocked. “It will be a great honour to represent my country. I think I am really pretty proud, but it hasn’t sunk in at all yet. When I get home tonight I’m sure it will hit me,” the winner said.

Michael has played at the last two FIWC Grand Finals in Berlin and Barcelona and he has got to the Last 16 each time, so if I can beat him like I did today then I must have a good chance.
New FIWC Australian National Champion Sam Mort.

Sam’s victory celebrations were respectively muted, largely due to the fact that he comprehensively beat good friend Michael Pommer in the final match of the day. Sam and 24-year-old Michael, from Canberra, have been playing together online for the past 16 months and have become good friends. With the Live Qualifier Event taking place in Sydney, Michael was even staying at Sam’s house where the two had practised together prior to the event.

Sam names Michael as his toughest ever-online opponent and is using Michael’s strength to give him confidence for his first Grand Final. “Michael has played at the last two FIWC Grand Finals in Berlin and Barcelona and he has got to the Last 16 each time, so if I can beat him like I did today then I must have a good chance,” Sam said.

A royal show
The Royal Easter Show in Sydney celebrates many aspects of Australia's agricultural tradition. It is usually the cattle shows and wood chopping competitions that draw the Royal Easter Show crowd. Today, however, the hundreds of thousands of visitors were treated to a new generation of entertainment as gamers took to the virtual pitches of EA SPORTS™ FIFA 10 on PlayStation®3.

Felipe flies in
The longest commute to the Australia Live Event was accomplished by 22-year-old Felipe Stoyne from New Jersey, USA. Felipe made the mammoth 10,000-mile trip just to compete in the event and make a last attempt to qualify for the Grand Final.

Felipe finished in third-place at FIWC06, held in Amsterdam, losing out to eventual champion Andries Smit in the semi-finals. Felipe has been chasing his Grand Final dream ever since. He had already flown to Copenhagen back in March to compete in the Danish Qualifier but had lost out there in the later stages of the competition.

Felipe looked in formidable form in the earlier rounds, but met his match in Michael Pommer who beat him 5-3 in a thrilling semi-final. It seemed, however, that the effort needed to edge out Felipe in the semi-final, took its toll on Michael, and he was visibly exhausted in the final match, with Sam dominating the game and taking the title with a comfortable 8-3 victory.

Final stop
The Australia Live Event is the last of the FIWC10 Live Qualifier Events, bringing to an end an incredible seven-month qualification season. 21 of the 32 Grand Finalists are already known, with the remaining 11 names, belonging to the Season 2 online winners, to be announced in April. Season 2 of FIWC10 online qualification closed on 31 March.

Keep your eyes on www.FIFA.com/FIWC for the full list of Grand Finalists in the coming days. The 32 competitors will be eagerly counting down the days until 1 May, a day on which the 32 elite FIWC10 virtual football gamers will battle it out for the title of FIFA Interactive World Cup Champion.