Team Vitality may have inspired Europe at the World Championships last year but at the moment they’re struggling to inspire themselves. There’s no pressure facing G2 and could be a surprise turning point.
“Stay true to yourselves. Do not try to chase anyone. Do not try to copy anyone. Just be confident, don’t limit yourselves either. Go into this tournament believing that you can f****ing win everything. That is the mentality you need to have to conquer the best because anything is possible if you believe, play with confidence and stay true to yourself. So do that for me Europe, please.”
That was the plea from a tearful Jakob “YamatoCannon” Mebdi, whose legs were shaking after his Team Vitality players had agonisingly missed out on a place in the Knockout Stages of the World Championships last year.
Three of those players were in their first ever professional season. In the space of a year Daniele "Jiizuke" di Mauro, Amadeu "Attila" Carvalho and Jakub “Jactroll" Skurzynski had gone from competing in a Spanish regional final to taking wins off reigning World Champions at the time Gen.G and tournament favourites Royal Never Give Up (RNG).
It was a position that Vitality were never supposed to find themselves in. In fact, it was a position that many didn’t believe any Europe team would ever find themselves in. Vitality’s brave performances were the beacon of hope that illuminated the way for Europe to find international glory.
Play your own style and believe you can beat anyone was YamatoCanon’s advice and G2 took that to heart at MSI this year. The first ever LEC champions took Taipei by storm in the semi-final and final of the tournament with their aggressive play-style and surprising picks like Pyke top.
YamatoCannon and Vitality inspired Europe to become world-beaters but created a monster in the process. It doesn’t look like anyone in Europe can stop G2 at the moment but we know that Vitality have faced worse odds.
No vacation for G2
After a busy few months of scrimming and playing with MSI, you could have forgiven G2 for taken things easy at the start of the split. Instead, the team has apparently decided that finishing games as quickly as possible is a more effective method of conserving energy.
G2 defeated Team Liquid in the fastest MSI final ever and managed to keep that pace coming into the LEC Summer Split with a resounding 23 minute win over Splyce. That’s one way of countering the late-game focussed team.
The next game however, wasn’t so smooth as Origen had been waiting months for a chance at revenge following their defeat in the Spring finals. It was a heavyweight fight between the two teams as both ADCs looked to land the knockout blow.
Patrik “Patrik” Jiru was performing phenomenally on Ezreal and proved that an outstanding individual performance can rock G2. However, Luka “Perkz” Perkovic was also in inspired form and showed his creativity with a level three teleport behind Jonas “Kold” Andersen that left the jungler bewildered.
There’s been a lot of talk about how good an ADC Perkz actually is. If he has a few more performances like he did against Origen then people will have no choice but to consider him amongst the best in Europe if they don’t already.
Belief is vital
In that same Worlds speech, YamatoCannon claimed that doubt fuels his team – the strength to overcome doubt was the reason that all of his players were able to get as far as they have. For them, G2 is just another hurdle to overcome.
While the reigning champions are sitting joint top in the standings after week one, Vitality are rooted to the bottom following a difficult opening week with losses to Origen and Splyce.
While those were two extremely tough challenges, you couldn’t help but feel like Vitality maybe could have done more. The team spent part of the off-season in China bootcamping with RNG, giving fans hope that the players could hone the fast-paced, aggressive play-style we’ve come to expect from them.
League of Legends has moved into a meta that favours frequent fighting which has favoured both Vitality and G2 in the past. Yet, without the wild unpredictability and unrelenting confidence we saw from Vitality last season, that playstyle just hasn’t had the same effect for them.
Vitality will have to fight fire with fire though: it will take something special to beat G2 at their own game. A lot of that burden will fall on the shoulders of one Italian stallion who has a mountain of a task in shutting down Rasmus “Caps” Winther.
This year, Jiizuke hasn’t been able to replicate the same form that saw capture Rookie of the Split in 2018 though the midlaner missed some games earlier this year due to medical reasons so there could be more to his performances than meets the eye.
Still, Jiizuke hasn’t lost his bravado as we saw when he tower dove multiple members of Splyce last week – even if that play didn’t end well. While that didn’t go his way, it’s crucial that Jiizuke remains proactive and brave. While Caps is a sensational player, we’ve all seen that he occasionally will over step. He did so on the opening day and was solo-killed by Marek “Humanoid” Brazda.
If Jiizuke can punish Caps early in lane, he can finally help Vitality set the pace of a game and potentially snowball their lead. If both he and Lucas “Cabochard” Simon-Meslet can win their lanes then Vitality can take the fight to G2 and maybe pick up a huge upset win that would put their season right back on track.
It’s true that Vitality’s core had fantastic rookie seasons but it’s time for the team to come of age and prove they are one of the best in Europe.