The last LEC team standing. G2 Esports have already made history this year, but there’s still work to be done, as they’ve advanced to the League of Legends World Championships semifinals for a date with destiny.
With the Mid Season-Invitational trophy belonging to Europe for the first time, the three LEC seeds walked into this year’s Worlds on home soil in full confidence they could compete with the best.
For five years straight, between 2013 and 2017, the LCK has produced world champions, as well as three all-Korean finals. The metaphorical gap between Korean and Europen teams was spoken about annually on the analyst desk, as catching up seemed to be an insurmountable jump.
That was until last year, as all of the LCK’s teams crashed out of the tournament by the quarterfinals, while Fnatic made it all the way to the final. Following that, all three of Europe’s LEC teams made it through to the knockouts this year but following difficult ties in the quarterfinals, only one western team remains.
G2 are the last ones standing and are Europe’s shining beacon of hope when it comes to international success. The five supremely talented players have already done it once, as they shocked the world earlier this year by becoming the first European team to ever win MSI.
While winning that final against Team Liquid was a tremendous result, the real victory was taking down SK Telecom T1 in the semifinals. The LCK side is the most decorated team in LoL history and with the legend that is Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok still representing them in the mid lane, they are all always within a shout of another trophy.
The extremely close series at MSI between the two teams went all the way to five games and was decided by Luka “Perkz” Perković’s incredible performance on Syndra. The two regional champions will clash in a semifinal again this weekend but with an even bigger prize on the line – a chance at competing for the Summoner’s Cup.
Completing the trifecta
To be the best, you have to beat the best. Some fans will claim that Europe has caught up to the rest of the world and G2 are working towards rewarding the faithful.
The European champions have already defeated two LCK squads in Griffin and DAMWON Gaming but SKT will be an even tougher test. Not to say that the other two weren’t challenging either, as Worlds has been anything but smooth sailing for G2.
The samurais had to settle for second seed coming out of the Group Stage as they were defeated handily by Griffin in two consecutive games, in which one was a tiebreaker. However, the team didn’t have long to dwell on that setback, as they were then faced with the LCK’s third seed DAMWON who were looking extremely potent with top-laner Jang "Nuguri" Ha-gwon and mid-laner Heo "ShowMaker" Su ripping teams apart.
To make matters worse, G2 had tough scrims against the Korean team throughout the tournament. In a press conference following the series, G2 admitted they had only won three of their 20 scrims against their Korean opponents.
“I think we have a really good shot."
Yet, that was how many games G2 also won against them on-stage as the LEC team secured a convincing 3-1 victory. Perkz had another fine series as he was allowed his signature Xayah pick for the majority of the games. The ADC is extremely strong in the meta right now, much to the delight of the Croatian. “I'm pretty sure I'm the best Xayah in the world,” he says. “Xayah has been my best my AD Carry this year; [Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao] and [Martin “Rekkles” Larsson] are good on her but I think I'm better.”
Having already done so once this year, the mid turned botlaner is also confident that his team will take down SKT in the semifinals once again. “I think they'll be more aware of what we can pull off, but I still think it's hard to draft against us,” he says. “I think they'll have something prepared, but with good draft preparation we'll win. I think we'll win.”
G2 are shouldering the pressure of an entire continent and those high expectations will feel even heavier with deafening cheers from the crowd in Madrid, Spain. Yet, it’s the condition that Perkz thrives in, as he’s shown time and time again. “I do like high expectations, I like the hype around the team and myself. I enjoy it so I want to make the most of it in the next two weeks, have fun and try to win everything,” Perkz explains. “I think we have a really good shot.”
The Unkillable Demon King Faker is a player who strikes fear into the hearts of players around the world. The midlaner has seen and done it all when it comes to competitive LoL so there’s no chance he’s shaken by Europe’s potential resurgence.
Both Splyce and Fnatic have taken games off SKT in the tournament already, but Faker was defiant when asked if he thought European teams had caught up to Korea. “I'm not sure about Europe, but I think the LCK region is still the strongest region in the world,” he says.”
The midlaner will know all too well how difficult G2 are to deal with in a best-of-five with their creative picks and strategies. Yet, SKT aren’t easy to face in drafts themselves as shown by their first game against Splyce, as they took Lucian top and Draven as an answer to the usual meta ADCs.
“I think the LCK region is still the strongest region in the world.”
“Indeed we will have to be aware of their particular strategy and picks, but the most important thing is our own performance,” Faker explains, before adding: “If the right situation comes up, maybe we can play some surprise picks as well.”
These two teams should be extremely well-matched, and if you played this series 100 times, there’s a good chance there would be a near even split in wins. The only guaranteed winners are the fans.
This is a Worlds semifinal, but there is so much more riding on this series. After missing Worlds in 2018, SKT are out to redeem themselves and return to the throne for the first time in three years. Meanwhile, G2 will be keen to prove that Europe can compete with any team from around the world and take one step closer to completing their perfect season – and become the first European team to lift the Summoner’s Cup since 2011.