We might have to wait until November for the Qatar 2022 World Cup, however, the FIFAe World Cup is upon us, ready to crown the best FIFA 22 player around.
Taking place in Copenhagen, there is a prize pool of $500,000 available, but more importantly, there are the bragging rights to say you are world number one!
Ahead of the tournament, we had the pleasure of speaking to one of the 32 finalists, Paulo Neto of Atlanta United, who gave us some insight and tips about heading into the biggest FIFAe competition around.
Paulo Neto has been on fire in 2022, always one of the top players in the eMLS.
Of the three eMLS competitions held, Neto finished runner-up in the eMLS League Series 1, was a semifinalist in the eMLS League Series 2, and then was crowned Champion in the eMLS Cup!
He finished in the top 32 at the Global Series Playoff in London, earning a spot at the FIFAe World Cup in Copenhagen, which kicks off on Thursday, 14 July.
This is the second year in a row that the Brazilian has qualified for the FIFAe World Cup, but it will be his first time competing after COVID led to the event being cancelled last year.
A short documentary will become available soon after the tournament in Copenhagen, chronicling Neto's experience and giving some behind-the-scenes insight into the life of a pro player.
You can follow the official Atlanta United FC Twitter and @Pauloneto999 to keep on top of their progress and find out when the documentary will be released, which you can then watch on the ATLUTD YouTube channel here.
The Wait is NEARLY Over
As we mentioned, this is the first time for Paulo Neto at the FIFAe World Cup, so how is he feeling about the event?
"It's an amazing feeling. I've always wanted to play in this tournament. Last year I qualified but it didn't happen because of COVID. But now I'm here and the tournament is going to happen and I'm so happy about that and I just want to play!"
Neto has had to qualify again for the competition, as well as endure a long wait before getting stuck into the action, so is he excited or nervous ahead of the event?
"No, not nervous, but excited to play. I just want to play you know, I just want tomorrow [the start of the tournament] to be here fast."
It's clear that Neto is ready and raring to go, up for showing off his skills on the big stage once again.
Confidence of a Champ
When we asked Neto how far he could go in the tournament he responded with the confidence often seen in winners.
"I can be the champion. I have the experience. I have played a lot of tournaments and I know what it means to be the champion. I feel that I can go far but everyone is good so it's a difficult time."
As Neto points out, at this level all competitors offer a challenge, but are there any players he doesn't want to match against?
"No, no, I don't have that. There are some players that already have a lot of experience also, so you prefer not to face them, but I don't mind. As I said, everyone is good here."
The steeliness of Neto comes out when we ask if he backs himself against whoever he plays.
"Yeah, this is what I work for. I can't be afraid of anyone."
Getting in The Zone
Ahead of such a big occasion, it can sometimes be hard to put into words the magnitude of the situation, however, we think Neto sums it up superbly.
"Winning this tournament is the biggest achievement of any player in their career. It's like winning the World Cup and then getting the Ballon d'or. It would be the greatest achievement of my life and I would be so happy."
He follows up by saying, "this is the pinnacle. We play all season to get here and so this is the most important [tournament] for sure."
We couldn't help but track back a bit in our conversation to when Neto said he wasn't feeling nervous, and this is despite it being the biggest tournament of his career.
We asked if there is anything he does in preparation to calm his nerves or to stay in the zone and keep concentrated.
"Yeah, I just try to be on my own. Do all the things I normally do; talk to my family; we eat some good food and I get ready. This helps me to be calm for the next few hours."
There you go, it can be as simple as that. Stick to your usual routine to stay calm, then you can carry that mindset into a more competitive environment to keep your head when others may lose it.
Sure, you may not be challenging for the FIFAe World Cup, but why not try it next time you play some Weekend League.
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