Another week of the best FIFA Ultimate Team the world's ever seen saw more drama (No. 1 in the 'Rest of World' qualifying, Samer "Samer96_" Elbadar failing to advance out of the Group stage), a riveting knockout round -- two matches were determined in thrilling penalty shootouts -- before a grand final that lived up to the atmosphere of the Sydney Regional Final as a whole.
In an all-Saudi Arabia final, Xbox One champion Khalid ‘xX ThE RoYaL Xx’ Aloufi outlasted his fellow countryman 2015 FIFA Interactive World Cup champion Abdulaziz ‘A8drafwz’ AlShehri, perhaps better known as ‘Mr. D0n3’ in a match that has all competitive FIFA enthusiasts chomping at the bit for next weekend's Americas final from Miami.
The first leg of the grand final was played on Xbox, but Alshehri wasted no time and saw himself through to the PS4 leg with a 2-0 advantage. Aloufi was unable to gain a foothold in the game, as his attacking style of play was squashed out by Mr. D0n3’s aggressive tackling.
Aloufi then fired back with two first-half goals from Lionel Messi to pull himself back in the second leg, completely turning the tables on his opponent. Another second-half goal almost put the game to bed, but a late goal from Alshehri kept things interesting at 3-1. In the end, though, Mr. D0n3 just didn’t have it in him as time expired.
Unlike Europe, where the top four in each group get to go to Berlin, only the winners of each console in Sydney go to the FIFA Ultimate Team Championships in May:
Welcome to Berlin @MrD0ne & @Kh4lid_0 #FUTChampions pic.twitter.com/VSLN8EzQAF— FIWC (@FIWC) February 11, 2017
Here were the results of the knockout rounds, which featured plenty of action and some of the up-and-coming names in esports staking their claim as the Rest of World’s best:
Alshehri trailed two different times during his first group stage match against HoneyBadgers2134 but rallied back to win comfortably, 4-2; he trailed again in his second match and ultimately lost to Jesus.
Despite being the 2015 FIWC Champion, this was Alshehri’s first major FUT tourney since, and it showed early as he barely squeaked through group play, only advancing on goal differential. Per ChuBoi, adjusting to the pace of UT has been a challenge for him. He’s normally a head-to-head seasons player.
Solaris-Samurai topped his group to advance despite a 14-hour prematch flight to make the tournament.
George “gcchelsea” Cleaver, a pre-tourney name to watch, was eliminated early as he finished with only three points. A 5-3 win over Johnny Atilla and a 1-1 draw with ‘xX ThE RoYaL Xx’ (who went undefeated in Group 1 for Xbox One) weren’t enough to see him through.
Group 8 (PS4), termed the ‘group of death,’ featured the top three qualifiers in the Rest of World region. No. 1 Samer ‘Samer96_’ Elbadar, who allowed the fewest goals per match in the entire region (.47) lost his first match, 2-1, and lost his second, 3-0, en route to being eliminated. Like Gorilla, the highest rated qualifier in this regional final went out in the group stages as well.
Fan favorite Matt ‘Shabnam’ Mckinnon provided some entertainment for the crowd, celebrating with ‘the Akinfenwa’ (see below) in real life, while his players did it in-game. He won his group playing five at-the-back but fell apart in the knockout round.
His fun, likable personality was reminiscent of Burnley native ‘Thee Bullock’ Bullock from last week’s Paris regional final.
cc: @daRealAkinfenwa #FUTChampions pic.twitter.com/E0fe1qP2FS— FUT Nation (@futnationsbn) February 11, 2017
Aloufi won his last two matches before the Xbox One final by an aggregate of 11-2, before beating BenzP7 in the Xbox One grand final in the 89th minute. He scored an astonishing 14 goals in his four knockout matches.
One of the biggest stories of the tourney was honurbly airbrn’s shockingly average team, compared to the rest of the competitors. Despite being able to employ any player in the game, airbrn chose to use his exact team from FUT Champions.
.@ChuBoi interviewed @Mayne_airbrn earlier. He’s made the #FUTChampions Xbox lower bracket final using this side. #ballingonabudget pic.twitter.com/tmg9D3bes6— FUT Nation (@futnationsbn) February 11, 2017
Honurbly airbrn went on to lose in the final of the lower bracket, but stated that he still intends to use the same team in future competitive matches.
S_O_N_Y_528, the No. 2 qualifier, lost to Alshehri in the PS4 winner's bracket semi-final and went down to loser's bracket, only to come back and face ‘MrD0n3’ again. Alas, he wasn’t able to overcome his opponent’s ruthless possession play; however, he won the Group of Death and had been one of the best players all day. He’s sure to make an impact in the future.
The next major event in the FIFA 17 Ultimate Team Championship Series kicks off in Miami on February 19th, where Americas best will compete for the chance to go to Berlin.