It's a kind of magic as Portugal's teenage sensation cruises to victory in the 2011 FIFA Interactive World Cup Grand Final.
Francisco Cruz, third in the 2009 edition of the tournament, was crowned FIFA Interactive World Cup Champion at the ornately decorated Mayan Theater in downtown Los Angeles.
In what had proved to be another record-breaking year for the world's largest virtual gaming competition, the 16-year-old Portuguese contender saw off Colombia's Javier Andres Muñoz Cordoba 4-1 in the final.
Having beaten Australia's Mark Azzi 2-0 in the first semi-final, Cruz was pitched against the poker-playing Muñoz for the final shoot-out, the 21-year-old Colombian having despatched England's Adam Winster 2-1 in an absorbing match.
Azzi then saw off Winster 1-0 thanks to a last-gasp goal to pick up the USD 1,000 third prize in his first Grand Final appearance, before confirmation of a new world record for participation in a gaming tournament of 869,543 entrants.
And then there were two as Cruz and Muñoz took to the stage for the deciding match of the 2011 FIFA Interactive World Cup.
With expert commentary supplied by last year's winner Nenad Stojkovic alongside former American international Eric Wynalda, Cruz and Muñoz, playing as Chelsea and Real Madrid respectively, made a scrappy start.
Both teams had chances at either end and, whilst Madrid seemed to be gaining the upper hand, Chelsea took the lead on 30 minutes when Didier Drogba nodded home a Fernando Torres cross from close range.
Madrid tried to make a swift reply, Mesut Özil getting away at the other end only for Petr Čech to thwart the German international by rushing out to force his shot wide. Muñoz was made to rue his miss as minutes later Drogba outmuscled his marker to head home and make it 2-0.
At half-time, Muñoz brought on Gonzalo Higuaín and the tactic paid dividends as within 15 minutes of the restart the Argentine international slipped the ball home following a brilliant turn in the box by Cristiano Ronaldo – 2-1 and seemingly game on.
Instead, with Madrid looking to press home their advantage, they were caught out with 15 minutes to go as, following a swift counter-attack, Salomon Kalou headed home to make it 3-1 and restore Chelsea's two-goal cushion.
Then, with full time approaching, Nicolas Anelka banged in Chelsea's fourth to make it 4-1 and seal a fine win for Cruz.
"I never thought I'd make it," said the young economics student as he collected his trophy and a cheque for USD 20,000. "It's magical."
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|Publish date:||Fri Jun 10 09:00:00 BST 2011|