Watch the best of the action as the eLions beat Belgium by 4-1
England's eLions head back into competitive action with their FIFAe Nations Cup qualifiers, which begin on Thursday 20 May.
Represented by Tekkz and Tom Leese, we've been drawn out in Group C of the European qualifiers, alongside Poland, Croatia, Israel, Iceland, Estonia and Belgium.
Matches are scheduled across 20 and 21 May, with teams playing three games on each day.
Ahead of the games, we caught up with both Tekkz and Tom to get their thoughts on the competition...
Events over the last year have mostly been remote instead of in a studio. How does this affect the way you play in a big tournament and how have you had to adapt to playing these large events from home?
Tekkz: “For me personally I find it really hard to play from home. In the past, when I’ve gone to tournaments, I’ve had a winning feeling there and been more in the zone. When I play from home in my bedroom, I'm there every day and nothing really changes so it’s difficult for me to reach the same level. So the fact we’re going back to events enables me to play at a higher level. Everyone in the FIFA scene can’t wait for these events to be back and we’re two players that love playing at LAN events.”
Tom: “I’m the same as Tekkz, I don’t really enjoy playing from home or in an office compared to an event. They make a tournament feel that bit more special. I think for the eNations, it’s going to work well for us as you go in with that added incentive. Obviously it’s been a tough year for everyone but competing from home has a lot of challenges. The fact we could get to go to an event, me and Tekkz are really looking forward to it.”
How are you feeling ahead of the FIFAe Nations qualifiers next week?
Tekkz: “I’m actually quietly confident. I’m speaking for myself because this year, I have been in the back picture. I haven’t really been winning anything and been a bit chill but now my head is in the game and I'm ready to go back to an event. I'm excited. There's a little fire in my belly to start winning again, and with Tom as my teammate, he’s the best player in the world this year so it’s going to be a dangerous duo.”
Tom: “I’m the same, I think a lot of people might say that Tekkz hasn’t been as good this year as he once was but I know that Tekkz is the best player in the world still. Especially with this added incentive of going back to LAN events, we’re hoping that it can both motivate us even more. Obviously I'm coming off the back of a good year, I know it’s going to be difficult, I know a lot of players in the group are good but there is no real reason me and Tekkz can’t go in confident.”
Who do you feel are the strongest nations this year, and why?
Tekkz: “I haven't really thought about it but off the top of my head, I’d probably say Germany. They have good players all round. And then I would say probably England, that's how it is. We have Tom, he is the best player on Playstation, I’m best player on Xbox so when you’ve got the best together then it should go well, so that’s what I am hoping for.”
Tom: “I think two nations to look out for are Sweden and Argentina. Sweden have had Oli Boli and Olle Lito, who have done really well these past two years, and are going in with a really strong duo there. Argentina have already qualified for the finals and they’re not in the Europe qualifiers. We played them in FIFA 19 in the quarter finals at the eNations Cup and they’ve got two really good players as well. But if we are talking Europe, Germany always has the strongest in terms of depth - their team is always full of really good players.”
You’ve both been on this eLions journey from the start, do you think it gives you an advantage because you play and know each other so well?
Tekkz: “Outside of playing together for England, myself and Tom are good friends so we’ve got a good chemistry and relationship. When we’ve played together it’s usually 2v2 and we’ve only ever lost one game. So now eNations is 2v2, it helps our understanding of how each other plays to drive us through.”
Tom: “I think it really helps both of us. We started being close friends in FIFA 19 when we were first part of the eLions team. We’ve been lucky to team up for the FIFA Cup World Cup with Fnatic too. It definitely helps having that friendship as you know if one of you loses a game you’re not too harsh on the other. We both know how it is and how good we are as well. I don't feel any added pressure from Tekkz either with having to win so I think overall a friendship should help us going forward, especially in this tournament.”
The eLions squad has expanded to four this season, how do you think this can improve our chances?
Tekkz: “There will be better vibes at the tournament with the added support, you want to do well for them so that’s an added incentive for us. When you’re enjoying yourself and the environment, you tend to play better.”
Tom: “Having Mitch and Big Mac there, I have the same feeling. There will be good energy around as they’ll be there when we’re playing. They might also pick up on things that me and Tekkz might not. I think their different perspective on the way they see FIFA and the way they see what we’re doing will mean they can pick up on important points, they can look into opponents more and watch what they’re doing which helps us massively. There are no negatives at all from this expanded squad.”
How different is the FIFAe Nations format and how does that affect preparation and competition?
Tekkz: “It affects it quite a lot as usually when you practice for tournaments it’s 1v1 so you don’t ever really play 2v2. I’ll get together with Tom before the tournament starts, if we get to eNations, and we will just play, play, play 2v2. For me and Tom, it benefits us as we’ve had years of practising this format over the last few years.”
Tom: “It’s a real benefit as I think it’s well known in the FIFA scene that I play similar to Tekkz, I learnt a lot from him at FIFA 19 and picked that up ever since. I think particularly in 2v2 it really helps because you both play the same way, same ideas, both pressing high and both like attacking really well. When you’re on the same page like that it can only benefit you.”
Looking at our group and the tournament structure, how will you be preparing and ensuring we qualify?
Tekkz: “To prepare for our group I just play as many players and games as I can, without playing people in our group.”
Tom: “In terms of preparations it’s just practising as much as you can without playing anyone in your group. It’s similar to football in that sense, you wouldn’t play a warm up game before a EURO or a World Cup against a team in your group. It’s more about focusing on yourself and making sure you’re ready. Me and Tekkz will be with each other the day before as well so we’ll make sure that we’re going through the right things, making sure we have got our tactics set up and formations so we are fully ready for Thursday.”
We are one of the favourites within the group, but anyone can win on any day, so how do you avoid complacency?
Tekkz: “You never really get complacent at tournaments, at the end of the day it’s just one human being playing another human being, or two, so if you look at it like that, you never will get complacent. Every game you go into you try your hardest no matter who you’re playing.”
Tom: “I think from the outside looking in, people look at ranking and think ‘he should beat him based on that’ but when you play and understand the players, you know it’s not as easy or as black and white. It’s very similar to football in that regard, upsets can happen so for rankings, we don’t really look into it too much. We go into it with respect for our opponent, we know how good they all are and what they can offer on the day. I don’t think complacency will be an issue in that respect, I think we’re both switched on and aware of how good our group can be. If people want to say we’re the favourites of the group, that’s only a compliment to us.’
It’s been a different year for competitive FIFA due to COVID-19, what are your thoughts on how it has gone and how much are you looking forward to the in person, LAN events? And how has the last year developed or changed your approach, if at all?
Tekkz: “For me it has changed it. You sort of take stuff for granted, before COVID you just thought stuff was always going to happen, we’ve not gone to an event now in two years so I’m just excited to go back and compete.”
Tom: “It makes us realise how lucky we were to be in this world and the situation we’re in with FIFA. The main thing I have learnt is not to get too high or too low in this situation and the way the world is at the minute. You’ve got to try and balance yourself out better, when LANs come back we will know the experience will change and definitely won’t be the same. Hopefully when we’re allowed back out properly and restrictions ease more it will be easier for everyone to sink straight back into it.”
How would it feel (should we qualify) to win the FIFAe Nations, joining one of an elite group to win an international trophy and be considered the best in the world?
Tekkz: “That's the aim, it would be quality. I haven't had a winning feeling in so long, a couple years now, so personally I want to get out there. I’ve never won eNations and I want to join France as the only nation to win.”
Tom: “I’ve won a couple of tournaments now but I’m always hungry to win more and this being an event one as well would be great. I’ve been pretty unfortunate that my two tournament wins have come during COVID so it’s not been the same experience as winning it at a LAN event. It definitely doesn’t feel the same, so for me all the incentives are there to get back to a LAN event and kill it straight away.”
England's FIFA eNations Cup qualifier games will be streamed live on England's Twitch channel. Group games from 4pm on 20, 21 May. Knockout games from 2pm on 22, 23 May (dependant on how far eLions progress)