Four of the eight 2018 quarter-finalists have been confirmed and, over the next three days, another group of six teams – including Australia – will duke it out to claim the two BlizzCon spots on offer.
South Korea, Finland, the USA and Canada are through to the World Cup quarter-finals in November after their strong group efforts. Australia, who lost to eventual runners-up Canada in last years quarters, face an uphill battle to return to the knockout stage after being drawn in a very difficult group.
China, ranked first among all World Cup teams for average skill rating (SR), will be the main obstacle, while a strong Scandanavian duo in Sweden and Denmark will also prove tough customers.
While the Aussies were the only non-group winner to emerge victorious in 2017’s round of 16 – they’ll need to put together something special to progress here.
Let’s have a look at how Group C will shape up.
* – As the four group stage host countries automatically qualified, the official rankings only include the non-hosts and run from 1-20. These rankings include the host countries.
All dates and times AEST
|Denmark vs Thailand||1:00 PM|
|Spain vs Australia||2:45 PM|
|China vs Sweden||4:30 PM|
|Spain vs Denmark||6:15 PM|
|Thailand vs Australia||8:00 PM|
|Australia vs Denmark||1:00 PM|
|China vs Thailand||2:45 PM|
|Sweden vs Australia||4:30 PM|
|Denmark vs China||6:15 PM|
|Spain vs Sweden||8:00 PM|
|Thailand vs Sweden||1:00 PM|
|Spain vs China||2:45 PM|
|Sweden vs Denmark||4:30 PM|
|Australia vs China||6:15 PM|
|Spain vs Thailand||8:00 PM|
With this group being Australia’s group and all matches being on at very friendly times, there really isn’t an excuse for you not to be keeping an eye on the whole tournament.
While the Aussies should be able to secure two wins from their day one matches, the remaining three will be critical if they’re to steal a spot at BlizzCon 2018.
How they fare against Sweden on very little rest will be particularly interesting on day two.
The China-Sweden match on day one will give us a very good idea as to how the supposed world no. 1 side will actually fare this tournament, while the Scandanavian derby on day three could also be immensely important to Australia.
In what’s been dubbed the ‘group of death’, this could actually prove to be the most surprising of all four 2018 World Cup groups in terms of who goes through to the knockout stage.
Sweden, who’ve finished third in both prior tournaments, deserve strong favouritism to top the group. They have the most Overwatch League players of any Group C team and, perhaps more dangerously, a handful of recently-released players who’ll have something to prove.
As much of a cop-out as it may initially read, I’m backing Australia to defy the odds and join them in Anaheim later this year.
China’s roster just doesn’t inspire anywhere near the same level of fear as their SR does and, while Denmark are more than capable of getting there themselves, the fact the Aussies have what looks to be a strictly better team than a year ago makes them more than just a sentimental pick.
The only answer to this question is, unfortunately, host nation Thailand.
Simply put, if they weren’t the Group C hosts, they would not have qualified for this World Cup.
They do boast the services of Dallas Fuel’s Mickie (Pongphop Rattanasangchod) – and home ground advantage can do funny things – but they look to easily be a class below the rest of their contenders in this stage.
I touched on this before with my progression tips, but the big surprise in this group will be Australia qualifying in second place ahead of two highly-fancied rivals.
With LA Valiant superstar support Custa (Scott Kennedy) anchoring a team of highly-talented – if not completely refined – players, they should be able to repeat their heroics of 2017 and get themselves back to the big stage in November.
The other big surprise I’m tipping here is No. 1-ranked China to not only fail to finish in the top two – but actually finish fourth with a 2-3 record.
World rankings are determined by the average SR of a country’s top 150 players. While China deserves credits for edging out South Korea in this metric – you can only field six players, and China’s six don’t look all that strong.
With only Sky (He Junjian) – who was released by the hapless Shanghai Dragons – boasting Overwatch League experience, it could turn out to be a surprisingly poor showing if their opponents play to their best.
They should have enough for Spain and Thailand – but I think Sweden, Australia and Denmark have them covered.
1st – Sweden (5-0)
2nd – Australia (4-1)
3rd – Denmark (3-2)
4th – China (2-3)
5th – Spain (1-4)
6th – Thailand (0-5)
Disclaimer: Stirling Coates was to flown to Bangkok courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment for the purposes of covering this event.