The 2021 League of Legends World Championship is only three days in, and the crazy moments are already pouring in. Thursday saw the conclusion of the play-in group stage, where a winner was crowned from both Group A and B.
Starting off with the less dramatic Group A, Chinese No. 4 seed LNG defeated Latin America’s only representative INFINITY in the first game of the day, securing an undefeated 4-0 record, and catapulting LNG directly into next week’s group stage. This game unfortunately also meant Worlds’ first elimination, as INFINITY failed to win a single game, and their 0-4 record sealed their fate.
After that game, Oceania’s PEACE defeated Brazil’s RED Canids Kalunga, securing the No. seed in the group over RED’s No. 4 seed. This game was pretty inconsequential, as the two teams were destined to meet Friday in the knockout stage no matter what happened; the game only really matters for side selection on Friday. Korean No. 4 seed Hanwha Life Esports, who finished all of their group matches Wednesday, secured the group’s second seed with a 3-1 record. The stage for Group A’s knockout phase is now set, as the winner of tomorrow’s PEACE vs. RED Canids match will take on Hanwha Life Saturday for the final spot in groups.
While Group A’s teams fell into their seedings without a need for additional games, this was not the case for Group B. In the third game of the day, Japan’s DetonatioN FocusMe absolutely demolished Beyond Gaming from the PCS, a region that includes Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, to finish with a record of 3-1 in the group. All that remained was North American No. 3 seed Cloud9 vs. the CIS’ Unicorns of Love. While this was a matchup between an undefeated team and one yet to earn a win, respectively, the Unicorns pulled out the win. This triggered two tiebreakers, as Cloud9 and DetonatioN FocusMe were tied at 3-1 for first, and Beyond and Unicorns were tied at 1-3 for last.
After a well-fought game, Beyond vanquished the Unicorns, officially eliminating them from Worlds and setting the stage for C9 vs. DFM. After the dust had settled, the Japanese representative was victorious, securing an automatic spot in the main group stage. This was a historic moment, as no team from Japan has ever made it to the top 16 of either Worlds or the Mid-Season Invitational.
Now Group B’s knockout stage is also set, with Turkey’s Galatasaray Espor facing off against Beyond on Friday for a chance at Cloud9 on Saturday.
As for the overall state of the tournament, LNG moving on to groups rounds out Group D, as they join Korea’s Gen.G, Europe’s MAD Lions and North America’s Team Liquid. DetonatioN FocusMe has yet to be slotted into a group, so they could land in either A, B or C.
It’s important not to underestimate the importance of this victory for DFM. This is a team that has dominated the Japanese League for years, with their Top Laner Evi and their AD Carry Yutapon being the second and third longest tenured players on a single team in the world. The only player with a longer tenure than them is T1’s Faker. They’ve fought to get this far, the journey has been a long one and it’ll be interesting to see what they can do now that they’re in groups.