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Austria kicked off qualifying for Europe today with a 2-0 victory over Serbia streamed live on the ESL Overwatch Twitch channel.
Through the weekend, six groups of five nations will begin their group stage matches. The top two teams earning a single best-of-five shot against another group’s finalist for a shot at earning one of three spots at BlizzCon. You can find the group standings on ESL’s website, with a handy tentative schedule for the weekend tabulated on Reddit, including links to streams of different languages. You can check out the rosters at the Overwatch World Cup website.
This weekend’s schedule doesn’t include many blockbuster matches, though fans will be able to enjoy watching some of the event’s favorites, like Sweden, Finland, and Russia, compete against decent competition.
The biggest game comes on Sunday, when Finland will play the United Kingdom in a game that could decide those teams’ BlizzCon fate; the loser may run into a buzzsaw like Sweden in the next qualifying stage. Finland features a lineup full of pro players, including three players from Ninjas in Pyjamas as well as EnVyUs’ young star Timo "Taimou" Kettunen. The United Kingdom will also fields top tier players like Seb “numlocked” Barton of Dignitas and Harrison “Kruise” Pond of REUNITED. Finland will certainly be the favorite, but the boys from Britain may give them a run for their money.
So tune in to see what each nation has to offer heading into one of Overwatch’s first truly worldwide events, but keep in mind this is only the beginning, and the level of competition won’t match that of professional level games. The voting system produced many lineups filled with amateurs and streamers, who won’t have the trained skill or coordination of the tip top pros. But that doesn’t mean matches won’t be hotly contested, or we won’t see some great Overwatch action. And as we get closer to BlizzCon, the matches will only get better.