It’s a path well-trodden for Overwatch League players, passing through the security gates in Burbank towards Blizzard Arena. But for many players from around the globe, this was their first time on these hallowed grounds for the Overwatch World Cup Los Angeles Group Stage. On Friday, national teams from Brazil, Norway, Switzerland, Austria, Canada, and the USA commenced their battle to join South Korea and Finland in the Top 8 at BlizzCon. For the OWL-heavy teams of North America, it almost seems like a foregone conclusion. For the rest, it’s a chance to show the world what they’ve got. We went into day one expecting a little madness and, well, it delivered.

AGILITIES FROGS OUT

At halftime of the Austria vs. Canada match, the broadcast showed a stat card highlighting support Christopher “Bani” Benell’s numbers on Lúcio: 8,296 damage, 9,514 healing, 55 players booped, and 6 deaths. Between his steady play and a strong Sombra performance from Lane “Surefour” Roberts, Team Canada had built a comfortable 2-0 lead. But it wasn’t Bani showing up on Lúcio in the second half—instead, DPS Brady “Agilities” Girardi flexed onto the hero for the first time in his career.

“Bani had to go to a meeting yesterday, and I had the idea to fill for Lúcio,” he said. “So we played it in scrims, and actually beat Brazil with that. It’s a little meme-y, but if we were winning the two maps against Austria hard enough, Bani was going to make the call to sub me in.”

Canada’s superiority over Austria was evident across the board, but Agilities still managed to show off on an unfamiliar hero (he’s technically projectile, anyway):

As entertaining as it was, Agilities admits that his Lúcio adventures are unlikely to transfer over to the Overwatch League: “I think that as a player, I’m just over-aggressive, so I feel like I would leave my supports out to dry a lot. I actually did that in the match with Crimzo. I felt bad, but I can’t really control that.”

Brazil presented a much stronger challenge for Canada in their matchup later in the afternoon, especially in the first half on Lijiang Tower and King’s Row. A lot of that, according to Agilities, was due to Brazil’s unexpected reliance on triple-triple compositions.

“We thought they were going to run 2-2-2 or more DPS-oriented comps, so we weren’t really prepared for that,” he said. Canada adjusted, though, and dealt well with Brazil’s aggressive skirmishing style by playing a more reactive style. “We tried to play it as slow as we could, bait them, back, heal up our team, get ults before them, and then try to engage when we had an advantage,” he added. “We didn’t just want to run back into them because it’s 50-50 that way.”

Team Canada’s 8-0 run through day one puts them in great position to advance to the Top 8 at BlizzCon, and they have a plan of attack for the rest of the weekend.

“Our plan is to go in against Norway as hard as we can, beat them, beat Switzerland easily, and then we’ll just have fun in the USA match,” Agilities said. “Rematch at BlizzCon, hopefully.”

THE NEXT GENERATION

One of the youngest players at the Los Angeles Overwatch World Cup Group Stage is Team Austria’s Oliver "Eclipse" Nguyen, who is only 15 years old. What were you doing when you were 15, huh? This is Eclipse’s first time in America, and he’s loving it.

“America is amazing,” he said. “Just people speaking English is so weird. You hear people speaking it in videos, but when you hear them in real life, it’s so different! It feels so fake, like they’re video game NPCs!”

Although he enjoyed playing in Blizzard Arena for the first time—“It was totally awesome!”—Eclipse and his team had a tough opening day, facing both the USA and Canada. That does put him in a unique position, though, to assess which of the two juggernauts is stronger.

“We first thought Canada was stronger than USA, but now that we’ve played them both, USA feels really strong,” he said. “That could also be because Canada didn’t want to show their compositions and they played a weird comp they usually never play, so who knows! I think USA played their comp better so maybe they are the better team.”

After such a tough day, Eclipse is hoping for a relaxing evening. But with three matches left on the books for Austria, you never know. “I think we’re going to look at VODs, maybe we’ll scrim—ugh, I hope we’re not going to scrim!’ he said, laughing. “I’m done for today, it was pretty stressful.”

BRAZIL BRING IT BACK

Entering the weekend, many thought Brazil and Norway were the two dark-horse teams of the Los Angeles Group Stage, and their showdown to close out day one would determine which team could truly claim that title. The match didn’t disappoint, delivering the only five-map set of the day and culminating in a reverse-sweep for Brazil.

Watch Full Match | Norway vs. Brazil | September 7

Norway, who defeated Switzerland 3-1 earlier, looked confident at the beginning, building a 2-0 lead off flexible team comps and superior team coordination. It was clear that the Brazilians needed to reset if they wanted to avoid a winless start to the Group Stage. So they made two changes. First, according to DPS Eduardo “Dudu” Macedo, they did their best to forget about the first half.

“We knew it was going to be hard, but we’re Brazilian, so we’re always over-the-top,” he said. “Everyone’s like, hey, let’s go let’s go let’s go!”

Second, the team went back to more familiar compositions and comfort picks. “I believe that if we’re going to play in this [tournament], we should play what we’re comfortable with, so if you’re going to lose, you’re going to lose doing what you can do best,” Dudu explained. “It started working out in the third map, and in the last map, we said, ‘Screw it, let’s just do this, we’re winning, let’s go, that’s the plan.’ We did it and it worked out.”

With each map win in the second half of the match, Brazil looked more and more like a team capable of making waves, competently executing an array of comps ranging from quad-tank to double-sniper to pure dive as they took Temple of Anubis, then Junkertown, and finally Ilios.

The victory means a lot for Brazil, who wanted to prove themselves in Los Angeles—not against the likes of Canada or the US, but against teams like Norway, who they see as their peers on the world stage.

“We can’t really play against Europeans, or Koreans, or Australians,” Dudu explained. “Everyone’s really far, we can only play with a few teams from the East Coast here in NA. So beating a European team that we know has a lot of good players, it really shows that we have potential. And it feels great, people seeing that. It’s not our only goal, but our main goal here was to prove that this region has players who can go toe-to-toe with good teams, against players from the Overwatch League.”

Their next match will be against another majority-Overwatch League roster, as they take on Team USA on Saturday morning. Dudu says their big win over Norway likely won’t give them that much of a confidence boost against the Americans, given the differences in skill and experience. The goal remains the same, though—to show the world the potential of Brazilian Overwatch.

“If we can take a map or do a good show, it’s a good thing,” he said.

The 2018 Overwatch World Cup is back in action on Saturday at 10 a.m. PDT. Check out our complete stage preview for schedules, rosters, live-streaming locations, and more.