For the major region teams, the play-ins have often been seen as simply a warm up tournament; a chance for their teams to get some reps in before moving on to play in the group stage next week. But for the minor region teams, this stage is usually their only chance to show that they can keep up; that they can hang with the best teams in the world from the major regions. With Korea. With China. With Europe. With North America, although that’s not usually as hard to do.
Most surprising perhaps was the quiet rise of Galatasaray Esports from Turkey. Galatasaray began their tournament with a victory over Taiwan’s Beyond Gaming, before claiming a win over the Unicorns of Love. Beyond, one of the pool A teams in the group alongside Cloud9 were supposed to have a relatively easy path, with the exception of the North American squad. Now, they’re down a game going into Cloud9 tomorrow followed by a game against the Unicorns.
Despite the Unicorns decent performance at Worlds last year, when they qualified for the Group Stage following MAD Lions unexpected loss the round before them, they’ve struggled this year. They’re 0-2 after two games, dropping matches to both Galatasaray as well as the Japanese Detonation FocusMe. While UOL isn’t out by any means, only the lowest seed is outright eliminated after this round of group play, and they’re not sitting in a good position going into tomorrow.
On the other hand, LNG and HLE have had relatively normal group experiences.
Chinese fourth seed LNG opened the tournament strong; they were a little shaky against Hanwha Life Esports, the Korean fourth seed, but then went on to a much steadier win over Peace. Hanwha had weak moments even in their second game, when they took on Infinity Esports, but they did claim the win; and a win is a win.
Wednesday will be the most important day of the week for these teams. While there are a few games on Thursday, the only other full day, with a whopping eight games total, is Wednesday. Two teams, Hanwha and Galatasaray, will have their final records decided Wednesday. It might be their last chance to make a mark.
The next day of play-ins begin Wednesday at 7 a.m. and are broadcast in multiple languages on Twitch and YouTube.