With both LPL and LCK teams advancing to the semifinal round of the League of Legends World Championship 2020, it was Europe’s turn to take their shot at the crown as fan-favorite Fnatic faced the only remaining obstacle on their path: the Worlds newcomers Top Esports.
Both teams have entered the tourney to make a statement, to prove a point, and to claim the pantheon they were chasing for the past few years of their esports careers.
Reeling from their crushing defeats at Worlds 2018 and 2019, Fnatic came to this year’s tourney with the hopes of being hailed as the best team in the professional circuit, amid low expectations from critics and analysts alike. The no. 2 seed barely escaped the fangs of Group C by besting both LGD Gaming and TSM, only to fall short against Gen.G.
While the European team showed consistency with their meta picks during the group stage, it was not without flaws. The players became entirely dependent on their comfort picks for the entire tourney, leaving them vulnerable to surprise counters from their opponents. However, it was mechanical skill and a deep longing for the crown that drove Fnatic to survive groups and make it to the quarterfinals.
Meanwhile, Top Esports is positioned to win this year’s Worlds as evidenced by their recent successes in the LPL. The team reorganized their ranks with the inclusion of ace carry player JackeyLove, a young prodigy player who enjoyed his own share of successes during his tenure at Invictus Gaming and Young Glory. Top pummeled their opponents in both the Summer and Spring playoffs of LPL 2020, earning the team its first golden ticket to Worlds.
Top proved all expectations right and led Group D by shutting down the likes of DRX and Unicorns of Love. With a 5-1 stat sheet on their hands, it is no surprise why the Chinese squad is being picked as the favorite in the tourney. Moreover, Karsa and 369 bumped their performance to an all-time high and surprised critics with their plays in groups. With a momentum as blazing as Top’s, there’s no telling how far the team could rise in the pro scene.
Fnatic started the match by overwhelming Top with a huge 2-0 lead. The European team continuously picked off JackeyLove to mitigate his snowball potential in Game 1, while Rekkles roamed the map and slew Top’s champions one by one, leaving room for Fnatic to win objectives and barrel straight to the Chinese squad’s vulnerable base.
Top attempted to turn the tables by taking down three members of Fnatic in a messy sidelane clash in Game 2. The LPL champions rapidly took down Herald as they fielded the behemoth to soak up some plates in the mid lane and regain their lead. However, Fnatic maintained their pressure on the map and dropped four members of Top to snuff Baron at the 20-min. mark. The European team switched to target prioritization as they kept on shutting down the enemy jungler to prevent any objectives from being stolen. With a huge gold gap between the two teams, Fnatic took Game 2 decisively.
Things are certainly looking in favor of Fnatic, but the Chinese team didn’t want to end the bout without a fair fight.
In a stunning turn of events, Top flicked the switch to game mode and destroyed two Fnatic turrets at the opening minutes of the game, thanks to a couple of massive outplays, a 1K gold lead, and a 3-2 killcount against the no. 2 seed. Top exploited the lack of coverage at the side lanes and shattered six more towers from the enemy side. While Selfmade and Hylissang did what they can to steal a drake kill off Top’s hands, their efforts proved costly as the Chinese team aced Fnatic and took down Baron to put a lid to the European team’s win streak.
The fourth game proved no different for Top as they relentlessly denied Fnatic’s attempts to win their match point. Amid Fnatic securing Herald and drake kills to their advantage, the LPL champs persevered and waited for the right moment to decimate the no. 2 seed. It was a huge 5v5 encounter at the Baron pit that allowed Top to secure their winning condition, taking out all members of Fnatic in one snap. With all chess pieces in place, Top shaved the remaining enemy turrets and destroyed the nexus to force a silver scrapes.
The gloves are off as Top opens the clincher with a massive gank to Nemesis at the mid lane, enabling the Chinese team to slip through the river and take out Herald for an early push. Fnatic showed signs of life as Bwipo snuffed 369 and aggressively controlled the top lane. Much to the European team’s chagrin, their efforts were all for naught as Top began picking off Fnatic members across the map. With JackeyLove’s Ezreal finding his power spike, the no. 2 seed found it difficult to secure a lead in the game.
Desperate and clinging to hope, Fnatic tried every chance they have to engage JackeyLove and remove him off the boards, but Top replied menacingly and slew four champs from the no. 2 seed’s side. With only Selfmade remaining and death timers ticking, Top hammered the final nail to Fnatic’s coffin in Worlds.
Top Esports will now advance to the semifinal round to square off against SN Gaming, another strong Chinese contender for the LPL. After taking out JD Gaming in dominant fashion during the quarterfinals, it may take more than just mechanical skills and resilience to pin Suning down.
But to put a spin to LoL analyst Eefje Depoortere’s words, demons can be slain, expectations can be proven wrong, and Top just may cement themselves as the strongest team in the circuit in the foreseeable future.
The Worlds 2020 semifinal round will run from Oct. 24 to 25. Catch all the coverage on GG Network!
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