The lengthy play-ins and the group stage are over. Now it’s time for the highest level of play. The knockout stage bracket has been locked in, and here are the four matches set for this Saturday.
SK Telecom T1 vs Misfits
Misfits have gone through a lot in the group stage only to end up with the dirty end of the stick in the quarterfinals. They’re facing the absolute favourites and the reigning champions, SK Telecom T1.
Misfits have relied on brilliant but inconsistent PowerOfEvil, and so far, it has worked for them. Few expected them to reach this stage of the tournament, but they proved their worth by beating the absolute rulers of the NA LCS, TeamSoloMid, in a nail-biting tiebreak.
They have nothing to lose though, and we expect an all-out assault with everything they’ve got. If they manage to put enough pressure during the early stage of the game, they might as well catch SK Telecom off-guard. Even if they lose, Misfits have achieved so much that they can walk home with their chins up.
It’s highly unlikely, though. SK Telecom have blasted through their group with only a single surprise loss against ahq. The latter played fantastically and won thanks to heroic efforts of their jungler, Xue “Mountain” Zhao-Hong. Could it be a portent of future problems for SKT?
An opponent that’s capable of going all-or-nothing should be respected, however. This is certain to be a very interesting match, even if there are few doubts about the final result.
Royal Never Give Up vs Fnatic
In one of the biggest turnarounds of all time, Fnatic managed to literally rise from the dead. A horrifying first week saw them go 0-4, only to turn it around and clinch second place with 4-4, after winning two tiebreakers.
Royal Never Give Up sailed smoothly through the group stage, trading blows only with G2 Esports. Even the strong Samsung Galaxy couldn’t break them, and it doesn’t look like Fnatic will, as well.
Still, let’s not discount the extreme pressure that Royal Never Give Up face. Being the only Chinese team still in tournament, the home turf can prove to be a blessing in disguise. The expectations are high, and this fairly inexperienced team could choke under the pressure.
Maybe Fnatic can make an upset on wings of their phenomenal performance in the second week. The deck is stacked against them, but even more unlikely things have happened.
World Elite vs Cloud9
Cloud9 couldn’t have wished for a better opponent. World Elite is certainly the weakest of the four group winners. But it doesn’t give Cloud9 much hope. The Chinese still outclass them, but at least they have a fighting chance. As usual, Cloud9 are North America’s only hope in this tournament.
Both teams are play-in qualifiers and see this as their chance to advance. Cloud9 didn’t impress us with their group stage games. They lost two out of three week 2 matches and escaped elimination with help from SK Telecom, who beat the third-placed EDward Gaming.
Team WE cleaned up their group with a single loss against TSM. World Elite could also suffer from the same problem affecting Royal Never Give Up, but to a lesser extent, we believe.
Cloud9 will have to adapt to Team WE’s style of play and avoid the same mistakes that cost TSM the tournament. They are very aggressive and Cloud9 must find a way to keep them in check – or risk suffering the same fate as TSM. Cloud9’s adaptability could save them, but the juggernaut that is WE could be too powerful to stop.
Longzhu Gaming vs Samsung Galaxy
Longzhu Gaming are the only team to enter the knockout stage undefeated. It’s certainly a result of their fantastic play, but the Group C has been weaker overall.
Samsung Galaxy slipped against Royal Never Give Up in Group C, and they’ve been punished as a result. Longzhu can’t be happy about these developments as well. They’ve drawn the strongest second-place team they could. One of the two Korean teams will have to walk home after the match – such is the luck of the draw.
If recent form is of any indication, it won’t be Longzhu, who seem ready to take on SK Telecom in the finals. SG’s overly defensive style of play should be no match to Lonzghu’s aggressive steamrolling. Longzhu’s only weakness so far have been team fights, but their superior laning is miles ahead of SG’s.
SG’s bottom lane will also be put to the test. Longzhu’s GorillA and PraY are among the strongest bot-laners in the tournament. They could be a thorn in SG’s side for the entire match.
The Worlds Are Korean to Win
It appears the Asian domination in this tournament is here to stay. It is entirely possible that the semi-finals won’t feature any EU or NA teams at all. The two largest favourites are South Korean teams, SK Telecom T1 and Longzhu Gaming. Perhaps anticlimactic but well-deserved, SK Telecom could very well win the title yet again. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves – there are three more stages ahead.
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