3rd May 2021 – 1:17pm
The Challengers EMEA brought together the four best teams from Western Europe, the three best teams from Turkey and the best team from the Commonwealth of Independent States. It offered a taste of the international games and an opportunity to see some original matches with different styles of play. Even if two European teams won, the other regions didn't lose.
During the group phase, the domination of the European teams was unquestionable. All four representatives of the old continent beat their opponents without losing a single map, with the exception of Team Liquid. The finals of the group stages were thus played between Europeans and reminded us of the EU Challengers we are now well used to.
But the other regions were not there to make up the numbers. Gambit Esports was able to get revenge against FunPlus Phoenix once they had joined them in the loser bracket. While, on paper, the match was identical, with the same teams, the same maps and the same selected Agents, this time, Gambit won the two maps needed to win.
As for Guild Esports, they were surprised by the controlled play-style of Oxygen Esports. While both teams had won a map each, Draken took a gamble and selected Yoru. He is the least played Agent in all of Valorant right now, especially in competition. Guild was hoping to surprise their opponents, but it was an abject failure. Oxygen completely neutralized the Agent round after round to finally qualify for the play-offs.
The semi-finals of the play-offs were the major issue of this tournament: winning the match meant qualifying for the Masters 2.
It was from that moment on that Team Liquid transcended. The team won their match against Oxygen Esports by conceding only 3 rounds... of the entire encounter! On Haven, Liquid completely overhauled their strategy and agent pool. Kryptix has switched to his Viper and L1NK has switched from Omen to Brimstone. Both Agents, combined with the Sage of ScreaM, allowed total control over the comings and goings of their opponents. Once Oxygen was trapped, ScreaM's natural talent took over to eliminate their opponents. Only m1tez seemed to be able to respond to his opponents in any way.
Haven ended in a severe 13-0 for Liquid, confirming its superiority by winning Ascent on a 13-3. It was not expected to be such a one-sided game at this stage of the competition, but Team Liquid seemed determined to walk away with their tickets to Reykjavik.
Things were not so simple between Fnatic and Gambit Esports. Fnatic players won Icebox quite easily, but found themselves defensively unprepared on Bind. At sides' change, Gambit was leading 9 rounds to 3 and it looked like the match would be decided on a third map. But if Fnatic's offensive strategies didn't work against Gambit, their iron defense is as effective as ever. The poison of Mistic and the smokes of Boaster have made the reputation of the team since the Valorant First Strike. In a spectacular comeback, Fnatic finally won the map by avoiding overtime, thanks to a score of 13-11.
Liquid and Fnatic are qualified, but it was still to be decided who was the true EMEA champion. The grand final had a familiar feel to it, as the two teams had already faced each other at the Challengers 2 final. However, the outcome was very different!
The final started very well for Fnatic, who won Haven by a score of 13-3. All the players in the team rose to the challenge and one wondered if Liquid was relying a little too much on its qualification.
It was actually just a temporary slump after all. Liquid won Icebox (13-7) and Ascent (13-9) thanks to the performances of Kryptix and Jampi. Even though the two teams were neck and neck when Fnatic started to attack, they seemed to be completely out of their depth when they switched to defense. In these periods of play, they did not win a single round on Icebox and only 3 on Ascent.
Team Liquid had the advantage in this BO5, but the arrival on Bind would of course cause problems. This is undoubtedly the stronghold of Fnatic, even though they had a scare against Gambit earlier in the tournament. The setups of Mistic and Boaster are far too well developed for Liquid's anarchic play-style to throw them off.
It all came down to Split. Team Liquid had a very serious option on victory from the beginning of this final map by winning the first 8 rounds. A surge of Mistic on Astra and Derke on Jett allowed Fnatic to recover 3 rounds before sides' change. Once in Attack, Fnatic continued their momentum and won the first four rounds. It was soulcas, who had been rather quiet until then, who kicked off Team Liquid's final push. With the score at 9-7, he made a triple kill and got Liquid back into the game. Once back in the economy, the duelists of Jampi and ScreaM went toe-to-toe with those of Derke and Boaster. The Fnatic were then deprived of means and paid for the huge delay in Defense. Team Liquid finally won Split on a score of 13-7.