Grand Final contestants gather in London

  • Grand Final contestants presented at The O2 in London

  • Event gives players chance to get together before the action begins

  • Hosts and commentators share their views ahead of the tournament

The scene is set. The 32 players competing to be the FIFA 18 World Champion were officially presented at The O2 in London ahead of the Grand Final which starts this Thursday.

On the eve of the 2018 FIFA eWorld Cup™, 16 PlayStation and 16 Xbox stars – all dreaming of global glory – assembled for the Welcome Evening, which is starting to become something of a tournament tradition in recent years.

The event gives players the chance to gather before the FIFA 18 action gets under way, as well as getting a preview of the stunning set-up which they will be performing in ahead of Thursday’s reveal.

As well as the 32 Grand Final contestants, there was another special guest present on stage: the new eWorld Cup trophy. The accolade will be presented to this year’s winner, who will also walk away with a $250,000 USD prize and an invitation to next month’s The Best FIFA Football Awards.

Any warm-up ahead of the Grand Final would be incomplete without renowned names of the FIFA 18 community. Hosts Laura Woods and ChuBoi, as well as commentators Brandon Smith and Richard Buckley, were in attendance – and naturally buoyant ahead of an action-packed number of days. caught up with them to hear their thoughts ahead of the 2018 FIFA eWorld Cup Grand Final.

Laura Woods, host: “If you look back to a couple of years ago, the prize money for the winner was $20,000. Last year in London it was $200,000 and now this year it’s $250,000. The tournament has grown so much. The competition is stronger, the players are getting more professional, Premier League and Bundesliga clubs are getting on board and the profiles of these players are growing.

“You think of the huge music acts and sporting events that have taken place in The O2. When I saw the set-up here, my jaw dropped. It looks incredible. These guys are superstars in their own right and it’s a stage fit for them.

“Over 20 million competed in qualifying and we've got the cream of the crop here. You can’t underestimate how big this competition is.”

ChuBoi, eSport expert: “Walking into the arena and seeing the set-up for first time was insane. I’ve never seen a stage like that at any FIFA eSport event. I think it really says something about how well FIFA the organisation is taking FIFA eSports, and showing everyone this is a real sport.

“A lot of these guys were just playing at home a year ago and now they’re going to be broadcast in front of millions. I think it’s amazing to see how far this has come and where this is going.

“The players that win tournaments are the ones that know how to handle a crowd. You need so much composure, especially when you get to the final stage. Millions of people are watching - that definitely gets to you. I think dealing with that pressure is what the difference will be between the two players that will compete in the final and the player who wins the £250,000."

Brandon Smith, eSports commentator: “Since 2004 this tournament has been all over the world and now it’s back in London for the second year in a row. There’ll be live commentaries in English, Spanish, German, Chinese – and it’s great to see that there’s audiences all over the globe that will be watching the FIFA eWorld Cup.

"There’s still a stigma about people watching video games but it’s entertainment - and people will be at The O2 to watch it. Players either thrive on that crowd or it scares them. There’s players in this competition – like Ajax Dani – that love playing in front of the fans and feed off that energy.

"As commentators, we want to help put on a show for people who have never seen FIFA as an eSport. This tournament will be a head-turner for many."

Richard Buckley, eSports commentator: “It’s unbelievable to see The O2 hosting a FIFA event. When you get people in there, making noise, really cheering on their favourites, there’s going to be a serious atmosphere in that arena. It will be a cauldron of noise and whoever can deal with that pressure will go far in this tournament.

“eSports has soared over the last few years. The numbers that are watching the events are going up. It’s being shown on live television now and every social media platform is contributing to its success with live streams. You now see arenas coming into it and more people, sponsors are getting involved. It’s only going to thrive. This is a global sport and anyone around the globe can watch this event.”