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Fabio | 8. February 2021

VALORANT Challengers 1 EU: New Teams at the Top?

The Ninjas in Pyjamas, Monkey Business, Wave Esports, and FunPlus Phoenix have all qualified for Challengers 2. G2 Esports, Fnatic, and Team Liquid are among the losing sides of the weekend.

The first round of VALORANT Champions Tour Challengers EU didn’t have a Group Stage or Double Elimination bracket on offer. Instead, eight teams fought in four matches, after which the winners instantly qualified for the next phase. The losing sides, however, will have to enter the Open Qualifier again very soon.

G2 OVERWHELMED BY THE NEW NIP

In December, the Ninjas in Pyjamas shocked the world with a radical rebuild of their roster. Kevin “Ex6TenZ” Droolans, former CS:GO professional player, now leads the team into battle and actually puts up a great show. Obviously, he isn’t one of the heaviest hitters, but he has players like Charles “CREA” Beauvois for that job. The Frenchman went above and beyond in their match versus G2 Esports and was one of the reasons for NiP bringing home the victory.

On Icebox, NiP secured an early lead. Egor “chiwawa” Stepanyuk recorded 34 kills as they ran away with the rounds in both halves to make it a quick 13-7 map. However, G2 answered back just as quickly with a 13-5 scoreline on Bind, courtesy of Oscar “mixwell” Cañellas delivering a stellar 1.81 rating. Unfortunately, he was unable to repeat that performance on Split. Aleksander “zeek” Zygmunt tried his best to power through as the new fifth man, but the Ninjas were too powerful. After a weak first half, they turned the game around on the defense, eventually mounting a 13-10 scoreline for map and match victory.

So G2 were unable to repeat their stunning display from Red Bull Home Ground. After a single Best-of-Three loss, they now have to return to the Open Qualifier to try to secure a slot for Challengers 2.

MONKEY BUSINESS DECIMATE GUILD ESPORTS

Monkey Business quickly advanced to the next phase with arguably the most dominant performance of the bracket. On Ascent, Guild Esports didn’t stand a chance and were wiped off the server on a 13-4 scoreline. On Icebox, they weren’t any stronger, although they did record five round wins in the first half. Afterwards, however, Monkey Business quickly powered through to a 13-9 win, granting them a place at Challengers 2.

Dylan “aKm” Bignet and Dragan “elllement” Milanović were the undoubted stars of the match. With 39 and 43 kills each, they were the most dominant forces on the server. Provided they can put up a similar performance versus G2, FPX, and the rest, they could actually have a claim for the European Top 5. At Challengers 2, they might get the chance to prove themselves against the region’s best.

NEW FNATIC FAILS TO IMPRESS

When competitive VALORANT was just starting out, Fnatic made the conscious decision to wait before fielding a lineup. The management first wanted to scout the scene and not sign players who would become irrelevant in months’ time. So when SUMN FC made the Grand Finals of First Strike EU, Fnatic saw their chance. In signing this competent roster, they hoped to skip the kind of developmental journey that NiP, for instance, have had to undertake before.

But unfortunately a lot has changed since First Strike. Fnatic are obviously not on the same level as before and have had to suffer a disappointing defeat at the hands of Wave Esports. Starting out, they actually looked great on the first map. After a quick 13-6 finish, they made their way onto Haven, where both teams put up an equal display. Wave Esports eventually managed to win overtime on a 16-14 scoreline. Fnatic surely hadn’t expected to have to play Split as well, and they were most definitely not prepared for what Wave were throwing against them. After a 6-6 half, they moved to the defense, where Wave steamrolled them in seven straight rounds for a 13-6 victory. In their debut match under the Fnatic banner, the former SUMN FC boys already had to admit defeat and are now looking to rebound in the second Open Qualifier.

FPX VS. LIQUID… AGAIN

Kirill “ANGE1” Karasiow and his men have met Team Liquid countless times. With the notable exception of one draw in August 2020, they have had the upper hand so far, even though the matches were usually too close for comfort. This encounter was no different.

On Haven, Liquid put up a fantastic defense, but failed to impress on the offense. Reaching a 12-12 tie, the teams headed into overtime, which FPX narrowly won over on a 15-13 scoreline. So Liquid stood with their backs against the wall. They had just lost their own map pick and had to enter Split. Once again, they mounted a great defense, securing an 8-4 lead. However, FPX brought everything back in the second half and forced the match into overtime once again.

Liquid didn’t let up that easily. They played out eight additional rounds, after which FPX finally clinched the match victory on a 17-15 scoreline. Adil “ScreaM” Benrlitom must have gotten used to losing these matches against FPX, but after mounting two great first halves, the team surely expected this to play out differently. Liquid are now en route for the second Open Qualifier, whereas FunPlus Phoenix have already booked their tickets to Challengers 2.