posted by SmittyW.,
In an exciting finale, the Europeans challenged the invincible NA stack like no other team in Iceland before, but eventually had to concede to Stage 2's true champions. We take a look back at the most thrilling VCT event yet.
|7th-8th||X10 Esports/KRÜ Esports||$25,000||175|
|9th-10th||Crazy Raccoon/Sharks Esports||$15,000||150|
EMEA's last hope
Over the course of the tournament, the team of captain Jake "Boaster" Howlett proved their resilience time and time again. As Fnatic dropped into the Lower Bracket after their first encounter with Sentinels in round two, they had to take a tougher route, with the threat of being eliminated early looming over every match. After beating the Southeast Asian team X10 Esports and NA's number two Version1, they saw themselves in another rematch against EMEA co-representative Team Liquid.
The two EMEA powerhouses had met twice before during Stage 2: Fnatic completely dominated the team of VALORANT ace Adil "ScreaM" Benrlitom in the finals of the second Challengers Qualifiers, but Liquid took their revenge a few weeks later emerging triumphant from Grand Finals at the EMEA Challengers Playoffs. The best things come in threes, and so fans got to see another EMEA derby between the two rivals, although some might have lamented the fact that only one team from the region would go on.
Although ScreaM showed another breath-taking performance on his Sage, Fnatic came out on top. This was also due to Martin "Magnum" Peňkov who trumped Liquid's top player by two frags on the overall scoreboard. The Czech scored 26 of his 40 frags this series on the second map, Ascent, which also concluded this best-of-three.
In the Lower Bracket finals, Fnatic were up against the South Korean champions NUTURN Gaming. Both teams traded wins and saw themselves on a third map to determine the second Grand Finalist. Luckily for Fnatic, the match decider was played on Haven, a map on which Boaster and his teammates excel.
18-year-old Finn Nikita "Derke" Sirmitev produced a performance to behold on his Jett, and had a significant impact on both the attacker and defender side. His co-player James "Mistic" Orfila once commented "Derke coming in hot" when asked about the best player earlier this season, and this series supported that claim with facts. Fnatic eventually took the map 13-8, closing out the series 2-1.
Up against the unstoppable force
Coming into the finals, Sentinels were the team to beat in more than one regard: not only did Fnatic lose to them before, but the team featuring Canadian star player Tyson "TenZ" Ngo hadn't dropped a single map. In the Upper Bracket finals, they even destroyed NUTURN 13-5 and 13-4, a team which wasn't too easy to beat for Fnatic.
Just like in the first series, the teams were almost on par. On Split, they traded sets of rounds which caused an overtime. In contrast to the earlier series, Derke's impact was quite limited on this map, as he didn't get the frags on Jett he was looking for. By a small margin, Fnatic conceded a 12-14 defeat.
On Bind, things ran smoother for the EMEA team. Winning eight rounds in the first half, Fnatic saw themselves in a solid lead. But Sentinels showed off their comeback potential after switching sides. TenZ' Reyna wreaked havoc and turned out to be unstoppable, utilising the benefits of his Agent perfectly. This map had to be decided in overtime as well, and the Americans clutched this one 16-14.
Another OT win? We do it for the fans. 😏 pic.twitter.com/KCTLh9uGyz— Sentinels (@Sentinels) May 30, 2021
Being down 0-2, Fnatic now had the seemingly impossible task of taking three maps in a row against a team that hadn't lost one so far. The third map was Haven, on which the Europeans boast a win rate of almost 80 percent. Those who waited for a legendary comeback were disappointed, however. Fnatic had the difficult task of defending against Sentinels, who battered them down mercilessly. After twelve rounds, Fnatic bagged merely three, so their last chances for an upset were dwindling.
In the second half, Fnatic clawed their way back into the game, once more thanks to Magnum's Killjoy. This time the Czech and his team were not able to force another overtime and missed the golden opportunity for a reverse sweep narrowly, but conclusively 11-13. With that, Fnatic's fantastic run came to an end, and the North American representatives claimed the trophy deservedly. Boaster showed great sportsmanship after the game, praising Sentinels as "a sick team full of sick individuals". Fnatic won't go home empty-handed, though: the silver medal comes with $100,000 prize money and 350 circuit points.
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Photo credit: Riot Games