April 21, 2012
OFC/AUCKLAND - Young All White Reece Lambert will represent Oceania at the 2012 FIFA Interactive World Cup (FIWC 12) in Dubai next month after winning the OFC Final at Auckland’s Sylvia Park on Saturday.
The 18-year-old, who played for New Zealand at last year’s FIFA U-17 World Cup in Mexico, has shown his on-field skills crossover to the virtual world with a thrilling victory over fellow Kiwi Steven Fox.
“I never thought I’d win today. It was my dream and I’m just so happy,” said Lambert, who becomes the first New Zealander to qualify.
Although similar events have been held in the past, this year marks the first time OFC has joined forces with FIFA, EA SPORTS™ and Sony PlayStation® to create an Oceania qualifier with participants from across the region.
A total of 64 New Zealand hopefuls started the day with four finalists then going on to compete in the OFC Final against top qualifiers from New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tahiti.
Playing as Manchester City in the final match, it took an 86th minute winner from Mario Balotelli for Lambert to beat Fox’s Real Madrid side 3-2 and book his ticket to Dubai.
“I’ve played online in the past and lost 4-3 to the world number six but in Dubai it will be a whole different level. It’s going to be an amazing experience to play against the best in the world.”
All Whites Ivan Vicelich and David Mulligan were on hand earlier in the day to keep a close eye on proceedings and give their best wishes to the competitors.
Lambert could be an All White in the making, with the former Sacred Heart student looking to further his career by moving to the United States later this year.
But first he will set off on an all-expenses paid trip to Dubai, UAE, to compete against 23 other players in the world finals from 21 May.
Far from being a distraction, the centre back believes FIFA 12 helps his on-field performance.
"I play FIFA 12 before every game, it just helps me to get in that mode."
The winner of the FIFA Interactive World Cup will walk away with USD $20,000 and an invitation to attend the prestigious FIFA Ballon d’Or 2012.
Story courtesy of OFC Media.