For the first time ever, all three European seeds at the League of Legends World Championships have qualified for the Knockout Stages with G2 Esports, Splyce and Fnatic fighting for a chance to raise the Summoner’s Cup – a feat that only the latter has accomplished before, and that was eight years ago.
There’s an unprecedented level of expectation for these teams to perform internationally, as the LEC has seemingly unearthed a golden generation of European talent. With a difficult route to the finals, these six players will need to step up if there’s any chance of the finals crowd in Paris witnessing Europe’s second ever World Champion.
G2 Esports: Wunder
Worlds has been far from smooth sailing for G2 so far, who will have mixed feelings about the Group Stage. While undoubtedly disappointed with second place, the players will also be relieved to have progressed considering the organisation’s awkward history with best-of-ones.
Before G2 can ever dream of lifting the Summoner’s Cup, however, they have to overcome the difficult obstacle that is DAMWON Gaming – a team that G2 have admitted to struggling against in scrims. To progress through the tournament, Martin “Wunder” Hansen will have to prove himself as one of the best top-laners in the world.
Wunder previously struggled against Invictus Gaming’s Kang "TheShy" Seung-lok and DAMWON’s Jang "Nuguri" Ha-gwon could be a similarly fearsome rival. The Korean superstar regularly takes the Kleptomancy Keystone with full confidence he can win any match-up and benefit from the bonus gold.
For G2 to win, Wunder will have to come out on top in lane and he’s proven he can do just that with the third-highest gold difference at 10 minutes in the Group Stage (439) with TheShy the only top-laner ahead of him. If Wunder can shut down Nuguri and be the first to influence the map, G2 have a very good chance of progressing to the semifinals or even further.
Considering it’s his first season as a pro player, there were questions as to whether Tim “Nemesis” Lipovšek was ready for the big stage. Now the question on fans’ lips is just how good can the Slovenian become?
The 20-year-old didn’t show an ounce of fear when facing SK Telecom T1 or Royal Never Give Up, and made sure everyone around the world knew his name when he solo-killed the legend that is Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok. Even one of the all-time greats couldn’t find an answer to Nemesis’ Veigar which the FNC pro mastered with help from high Elo one-trick Marius "Veigar v2" Aune. Having those sort of pocket picks will undoubtedly help when facing FunPlus Phoenix’s unorthodox Kim "Doinb" Tae-sang this weekend.
Nemesis is extremely consistent with the third-least deaths (9), the third-best KDA (6.9) and the joint second-most assists (43) of all midlaners in the Group Stage. Yet, if he needs to step up and be the carry for Fnatic, you know he will.
Splyce couldn’t have been handed a tougher draw with a best-of-five against SKT looming. However, a European team fighting against the odds and pushing the Korean titans to their limit isn’t exactly unheard of.
The European third-seeds will have to channel the spirit of 2017 Misfits and have the greatest performance of their careers to challenge the LCK champions. A lot of faith will hinge on Kasper “Kobbe” Kobberup, as the ADC is usually the focal point for the team.
The Dane had the joint fourth-highest CS per minute of all players in the Group Stage with a huge 9.8 which is helped by his team trying to set him up for success. Considering bot-lane mages only won once in their 14 Group Stage appearances, Kobbe can rely on his incredible positioning in teamfights with traditional marksmen to cause SKT some problems.
G2 Esports: Perkz
Speaking of mages in the bot lane, if anybody can turn that statistic around, it’s Luka “Perkz” Perković. The former midlaner has successfully pulled out Syndra bot in crucial games before, finishing off Fnatic in the LEC Summer Split finals and SKT in the Mid-Season Invitational semifinals.
It’s possible that G2 will meet SKT in a semifinal again, and if you were to bet on one G2 player performing when it counts, you’d put your money on Perkz. A big-game player, the Croatian usually thrives under pressure.
And considering Xayah is one of his signature picks, Perkz is already having a phenomenal tournament. Over the Group stages he recorded the second-most kills (37) of all players and was in the top five for average experience difference at 10 minutes with 282 – the highest of all ADCs. All of G2’s players are extremely talented, but Perkz will look to lead by example.
Whenever Fnatic are at their best, Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen tends to be the maestro who ensures everything goes smoothly. In the game that decided who would escape the ‘group of death’, Broxah’s relentless approach to ganking the bot lane paid off immensely as even Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao wasn’t able to find a way out.
During the Group Stage, he had the fourth-highest kills (21), third-most assists (46) and the highest KDA (6.1) of all the junglers competing. It’s safe to say the Dane is at his best and the other remaining teams will be fearful of his aggressive jungling.
As Andy “Vedius” Day pointed out in one of his VOD reviews, the one thing that separates Europe from other teams is the frequency in which their supports and junglers roam together to make proactive plays. Broxah has excellent synergy with Zdravets “Hylissang” Galabov and you’ll be sure to see more of that fearsome combo in the quarterfinals.
Finally, we have Splyce’s toplaner Tamás “Vizicsacsi” Kiss who has made the Knockouts in his first ever Worlds appearance. The Hungarian earned his way there too, as his phenomenal performance on Cho’Gath helped Splyce pick up a surprise victory over FunPlus Phoenix.
The veteran was a rock for Splyce during the Groups as he recorded the most assists (42), the second-highest first-blood rate (43 percent) and the third-highest CS difference at 10 minutes (6.6) of all top-laners in the competition.
SKT’s Kim "Khan" Dong-ha can be a weakness for SKT on the odd occasion, so Vizicsacsi could be key to completing a monumental upset.