Anticipation high as finalists touch down
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The 24 FIFA Interactive World Cup 2012 Grand Finalists have arrived in Dubai and are eagerly waiting the opening draw of the tournament, which will be streamed live at 14:30 GMT. FIFA.com spoke to a number of the participants and special guests on their first day in beautiful Dubai.

“A lot of high-rises and the ocean is just beautiful. I’m very happy” are Japan’s Takahide Hazome first impressions of the Middle-Eastern city. “This is a place that on my own I would never have the chance to visit so this is just such a great opportunity for me and I’m very excited,” he said. Takahide secured his place in late March after winning the Japan Live Event in a dramatic 3-2 finale. He will attempt to be the first Asian player to ever win the Grand Final.

Enjoying a healthy breakfast on a hot and sunny Dubai morning, Grand Final presenter Charlotte Jackson was excited about the days ahead. “It’s such a great setting. What a great place for the players to showcase their talent. I’m looking forward to seeing how competitive they’re going to get the closer it gets to the final and seeing just how good they are at the game as well. A lot is up for grabs. It’s a world title and 20,000 dollars prize money so it should be a fantastic tournament."

“This is a dream destination. It’s a paradise,” says defending champion Francisco Cruz. Traditionally, the defending FIWC champion carries the burden of expectation on their shoulders  and many believe that this pressure and expectation are the main reasons that no champion has been able to defend their title. Cruz is focused but relaxed and the Portuguese plans to stay relaxed. “I’m going to try and enjoy the experience of both the tournament and the destination to the absolute maximum,” he said.

Spain's David Roelli, Irving Velazquez Leyva (Mexico) and Wbeimar Quiroga Forero (Colombia) were excitedly trying on their new adidas apparel when FIFA.com spoke to them. The Spanish speakers were unanimous in their praise, describing the whole experience as surreal. “Paradise, incredible, magnificent!” Said Wbeimar. “It’s like a dream, being here in such a beautiful place with all these players, it’s magnificent." Said Roelli.

Brazil’s Samuel Liberato, who has spent this year studying in Australia, is no stranger to hot, sunny days and exotic beaches. But even the Brazilian was taken aback by the setting. “It’s such a famous country. Look at the atmosphere, the luxury, being here with FIFA, it’s amazing,” said Liberato.

“I was very excited when I heard it would be in Dubai,” said 2008 FIFA Interactive World Cup champion Alfonso Ramos. “The FIWC gives you the chance to visit other countries and other cultures. It’s really special,” he said.

The players are still taking in the beautiful views, hot weather and luxury of their surrounds, but in just a few hours their complete focus will shift to the matter at hand, competing against the some of the world's best virtual footballers and trying to become the next FIFA Interactive World Cup champion.

Don’t miss out on the first day’s activities. You can follow the draw and opening matches live on FIFA.com. Follow @FIWC on twitter for all the latest news and updates from Dubai.