Europe’s Fnatic and Origen have been two of the very best League of Legends teams at the World Championships this year, so fans went into this weekend with high expectations for their semifinals games. Neither team managed to live up to them, as both went 0-3 in their matches against Korean rivals.
Yesterday’s Origen games against powerhouse Korean team SKT might have been harder to watch for Europe fans since they were unilaterally decimated after one very impressive play at the beginning of the match-up. But today’s Fnatic vs. KOO Tigers games were more shocking. Many League eSports fans and followers thought Fnatic was the only team at Worlds to really have a shot at taking down the still undefeated terror of SKT at the finals. The not-so-implicit presumption in that view of Fnatic was that they would also be able to make it to the grand finals without too much of a challenge. I mean: SKT certainly did.
Not so for Fnatic. The first-place European team of 2015 stopped dead in their tracks today when faced up against Korean challengers KOO Tigers. Their first two games were fairly close, at least for parts of each match. Fnatic started both games strong and managed to put a clear but not insurmountable lead over KOO. Each time, however, KOO managed to swing back in the later portion of the game, and Fnatic’s early-game momentum wasn’t enough to stop KOO from changing the course of battle.
By the third game, Fnatic seemed like it was buckling under the immense pressure of trying to make something, anything happen to stop them from getting mercilessly pounded on their home court at the Brussels Expo in Belgium. They’d already been making clumsy mistakes in the first two games and they just got clumsier in the third. KOO ended the game with a massive lead in kills and in-game gold farmed (the two main things that are tracked in a League match).
This Riot photo of the crowd’s reaction at one point during today’s games sums up the feeling that the European crowd had seeing their top team fall so hard and so fast:
Fnatic’s longtime support player Yellowstar said in the post-game interview that he felt that his team wasn’t experienced enough to make it to the very end of Worlds, which is why they suddenly tilted the way they did today. Clearly he was right—the team was all but remade last year after four of its five main players left at the end of the 2014 season, two of them going to create the new rival team Origen.
Whatever hopes the new-and-improved Fnatic has for winning Worlds will have to wait for next year. With them gone, KOO Tigers advance to the finals, which they’ll play next Saturday against SKT. Despite Korean teams dominating League’s eSports for so long, this is actually the first time that the Worlds grand finals will be played between two Korean teams.