The Overwatch World Cup group stages kicked off this week, and with fifteen games each they’re pretty intense to keep up with. If you’re only able to watch one match from this stage, though, you should make it Finland vs. South Korea. The match-up was always going to be hotly contested, but the two teams put on one of the best shows of professional Overwatch I've ever seen.
South Korea are undoubtedly the favourites to win the cup, having emerged not only victorious, but entirely undefeated, in the past two years' championships. Finland, though, have come out strong, bringing a roster full of talent including six Overwatch League players plucked from five different teams. You can watch the match in full before I get to spoiling it below:
Until this game, South Korea had not lost a single map in the group stages of any World Cup, and they started strong here too. In particular, Pan-seung "Fate" Koo picked up Wrecking Ball, who had previously struggled to find his place in the Contenders playoffs, and showed everyone how it’s done. His fight initiation and the ability to force Finland into awkward positions with his minefield ultimate ability led the home side to victory in the first map.
But Finland was here to ruin their previously perfect record. On King’s Row, they were able to take the series to a 1-1 draw by protecting DPS star Timo "Taimou" Kettunen and enabling him to consistently pick off the vulnerable Korean players.
Third map Temple of Anubis was less dramatic. South Korea snowballed through both capture points with more than five minutes left in their time bank, and Finland not only couldn’t match their speed but were prevented from taking even the first point at all.
But they refused to give up, even when South Korea, once again using Fate’s Wrecking Ball, almost held them off from taking a single point on escort map Rialto. Joonas "Zappis" Alakurtti dropping a D.Va bomb ultimate right on top of a Sombra-hacked, Zarya-immobilised team and utterly wiping them out was especially satisfying:
Finland also used Rialto to experiment with a far-forward defence, trapping South Korea in their spawn, which was unfortunately spoiled by a game crash. When they were able to resume play almost 30 minutes later, they tried again, but South Korea was able to capitalise on Finland losing the element of surprise. Finland recovered in the final stretch, though, and were able to force South Korea into the first five-map tiebreaker of this World Cup.
It all came down to control map Nepal, and began about as close as can be with the first round coming down to a 99-99% battle that eventually flipped Finland’s way. Then South Korea clinched the second round, leaving it all up to the tiebreaker’s own tiebreak. Neither side wanted to lose after coming so far, and once again, the scoreline reached 99-99%, but South Korea ultimately managed to grind their way to victory as the crowd cheered the local side.
As expected, South Korea is leading their group, but Finland later overcame Russia, putting them in close contention for the second place qualification. It’ll likely all come down to whether or not Russia can beat South Korea tomorrow (at 9:15am BST), so expect a game just as tense as this one.