Poland slipped in to the World Cup qualification process in the middle of the pack, seeded 18th of 32. Whilst they clearly have some talent on the leaderboards “most of the players are more interested in the casual side in Poland” as Team Poland flex Mateusz "Matwoj" Hołtyn put it to us.
The nation of Poland has built a prestigious reputation in esports through Virtus Pro’s Counter-Strike legacy and the world class events that have been hosted in Katowice, but they are not known for their prowess in Blizzard’s newest esport. Although there definitely have been more than six Polish Overwatch pros in the short history of the game, Poland’s World Cup committee thought it best to cast a wide net, inviting applications from anyone who thought they could cut it on the world stage.
Eighteen promising talents were selected form the applicants and slowly whittled down over several days to a group of twelve. The whole process was streamed by the committee members, HighStyled and Warchawk, who also just happen to be Poland’s top Overwatch casters. From the twelve, the “final” six would playoff against the “subs” to further test team chemistry, but at this point there was a falling out amongst the members that actually resulted in Quake legend turned Lucio main, av3k, getting dropped from team.
Although Matwoj says he was not surprised that the final six players selected to represent Poland were those with the most competitive experience and strong mechanical skills, he did feel that “there were some positive surprises among the try-outs”. To help nurture the green shoots of Poland’s Overwatch scene the third committee member Blinku, a popular Polish YouTuber with a focus on casual play, also began creating a series of tutorials with the players to help generate more interest in the competitive aspects of the game.
It’s still unclear what the legacy of the Katowice Group Stage will be for Polish Overwatch, Matwoj noted that the mainstream media had not really taken the same level of interest as had been seen with the French media for Team France for example. However, through the team’s own promotional efforts and the support of Polish esports press he felt that there should be a strong Polish crowd in attendance, adding “I bet the Polish fans can positively surprise us”.
Placed in Group E alongside South Korea, Netherlands and Austria, the consensus view that it would be a battle for second place was one also held by Matwoj, “not just because of the players, but we also got to see them scrim and they really are insanely good”. With regards to the team many will be tipping to place second Matwoj felt that “Netherlands have a very good team on paper and they also apparently have some synergy and good results. So they will be a tough challenge but they're definitely not unbeatable for us.”. He was not discounting Austria’s chances either, offering ”they have two experienced and mechanically strong players that could lead their team to victory over everyone, although still they aren't as much of a threat as the previous two teams”.
“We have been practicing about 4 days a week, 4-6 hours a day since the team was picked until we arrived in Katowice. Now we try to get 6+ hours of scrims every day against mostly teams from Group F since we're able to play on LAN and old patch here, which we can't do that against teams outside of Katowice”, Matwoj told over.gg, giving us a flavour of Team Poland’s preparations. When pressed on whether he would rather face Group F favourites Russia or Canada in the playoff phase he thought that “[Poland] would rather face Russia as they play more standard comps, and we've had better results against them.”
The odds of Team Poland making it to that playoff stage aren’t great if you listen to the whispers that the Dutch have been having close games with the Koreans. There is a very really possibility that they will they be the first host nation not to qualify, but it seems that their process up to this point has been meticulous and they really are giving themselves the best possible chance with the resources available.
The matchup against Team Netherlands is the most important one by far and is actually first on the card. If the Polish fans can cheer their hearts out we might yet see the look of fear painted across TwoEasy’s face. If they don’t let the Dutch settle, anything could happen!
Matwoj was kind enough to give us a detailed history of the players selected to represent Poland:
DANYE: In Overwatch he has been consistently high ranked, hanging around Top 50 each season - at the time of writing he's rank 4, peak rank 3 in the EU ladder. He's extremely proficient on Genji and Soldier and you'll most likely see him playing those during the OWWC. He has played on a team with setrox previously for about a month.
setrox: Finished Top 60 season 3, finished Top 500 in every season. He played on OW.QQ which was the best Polish team for a long time and was also decently known in the EU. He played on it along with ślepajstos, MATTH and Tank117.
Tank117: Every season Top 500, played on OW.QQ with setrox, MATTH, ślepajstos. He also played on various teams with ślepajstos since release. He used to be a DPS hitscan player but got forced to Lucio when during the Roadhog was meta and it kinda stuck I guess!
ślepajstos: Every season Top 500 as well. Played on OW.QQ, sferis pride, and most recently Owly Six along with MATTH. Before Overwatch he played on a decently high level in CS:GO (one of the top polish teams). He has synergy with Tank117 and MATTH especially, since they've played with each other for so long.
MATTH: Top 10 on the EU ladder in 4 different seasons, played on OW.QQ and Owly Six. Before Overwatch he was a PvP World of Warcraft player, and held the rank 1 position in EU multiple times
Matwoj: Finished Top 500 every season, played on teams with some current pro players, including Team Netherland’s Dante and CrusaDe, to name but a few. Used to play in the NA region under FYM and then in Straight outta comp queue.
The Team Poland roster is:
- Mateusz "MATTH" Prymas (DPS)
- Karol "DANYE" Szcześniak (DPS)
- Aleksander "setrox" Radecki (Tank)
- Mateusz "Matwoj" Hołtyn (Flex)
- Adrian "ślepajstos" Pieper (Support)
- Krzysztof "Tank117" Sapoćko (Support)