Saturday, July 2, 2022

Five must-watch matchups in VCT EU 2022 Stage 1 Challengers

With all teams qualified, the Valorant Champions Tour EU 2022 Stage 1 Challengers tournament is coming soon, with the schedule revealed for all fans to see on Friday. Here are the five must-watch matchups for this VCT EU Challengers tournament, with plenty of storylines and rivalries within.

The teams are split into two groups of six, with three teams each qualifying for the knockout round. From there, the top three teams qualify to Stage 1 Masters. But with that still many games away, one of the biggest matchups in this list happens to be the first one.

Match 1: Gambit Esports vs Team Liquid (Feb 11)

Starting off Stage 1 Week 1 of Challengers with a bang, the first match happens to be a big one for both of these teams. Both Gambit and Team Liquid were invited to Challengers after their performances in 2021 and they both have something to prove with this first match.

Gambit is still regarded as one of the best VALORANT teams in the world after their consistency in 2021. They made no roster changes heading into 2022, despite losing in the finals at Champions. If anything, this match could be a great opportunity to show that they still are one of the best teams in the world, especially after that Champs loss.

As for Team Liquid, they’re in a similar boat. After losing in the semi-finals of Champions to Acend, who went on to win it all, they also have a loss to make up for. They were the favorites in the matchup against Acend, yet their opponents got hot right when it mattered most. Now, running it back with the same roster from the end of 2021, they have to prove their worth against the team they would’ve faced in the Champions finals if they passed Acend. A litmus test, to see if they can beat the best.

Match 2: G2 Esports vs Fnatic (Feb 11)

The game after our first must-watch is another interesting game in VCT EU Challengers 1. First off, you have G2 Esports, a team that finished in the semi-finals at Masters 3 in 2021 but failed to make Champions via the Last Chance Qualifier . Their expectations were to at least compete in champions, and that led to some roster changes. Now, after qualifying to Challengers by beating Excel Esports, they look to compete again and reach similar heights to Masters 3.

But, with Fnatic, they’re facing a team that made Champions but also were upset in the quarterfinals by KRÜ Esports. The only change they made from their 2021 roster was the addition of Andrey “BraveAF” Gorchakov after Domagoj “Doma” Fancev left for TENSTAR. Now, both these teams are facing each other to make up for a poor moment in 2021 and set a bar for 2022.

Match 3: G2 Esports vs BBL Esports (Feb 13)

With this matchup, G2 Esports is facing someone that is familiar to them. The longest-tenured players on this G2 roster were former Team Heretics players, back when they were competing for the top spot in European VALORANT. This includes Auni “AvovA” Chahade, and their current in-game leader Žygimantas “nukkye” Chmieliauskas. But, Turkish in-game leader Melih “pAura” Karaduran was also on that roster. He moved to SuperMassive Blaze when his old teammates went to G2. This marks the first time that he will face off against his old teammates, as he is now playing for BBL Esports.

As for BBL, their time in Turkey revolves around fighting for the top spot against SuperMassive Blaze. After finishing towards the end of the year at the bottom in multiple tournaments, changes were needed for 2022. This included taking pAura from their rivals in SuperMassive Blaze as well as Doğukan “QutionerX” Dural. Now, after good showings in both closed qualifiers in Turkey, they get to fight the best teams in Europe to prove their worth. With pAura’s revenge game on the horizon, this match will be a must-watch.

Match 4: Acend vs Guild Esports (Feb 18)

As for the fourth match, we have two very different teams on very different paths. Acend are the 2021 Champions, with their whole team coming back in 2022 trying to win it all again. Even with star player Mehmet Yağız “cNed” İpek’s contract situation, not extending along with his teammates, the reports say that he will continue with Acend. In 2022, they aim to prove that their Champions win wasn’t a fluke.

As s an organization, Guild Esports have hit some high finishes in European tournaments in 2021. They improved in the Last Chance Qualifier, fighting against Team Liquid in the finals for a spot at Champions. But, after losing 3-1, their 2021 season was over. The organization decided to only keep two players from 2021, signing a mix of experienced talent and some new blood. One of the most notable names is Jose Luis “koldamenta” Aranguren Herrero, formerly of G2 Esports and Acend. In his first match for Guild, he faces his old teammates on Acend. Now, as the underdog, he has the chance to lead his team to an upset.

Match 5: SuperMassive Blaze vs BBL Esports (March 4)

To end off the must-watch games for Challengers 1, it’s the all-Turkish matchup. After fighting for qualification against each other, with SuperMassive Blaze qualifying first, these teams are familiar with each other. SuperMassive Blaze, in 2021, were known for their strength in Turkey, but only managed one high finish in the larger European competitions. That finish was Stage 3 Challengers Playoffs, where they lost to Gambit Esports in the finals. That qualified them for Masters 3 in Berlin, but also was their highest tournament finish outside of the Turkish region. After three new signings, they aim to beat some familiar faces, including a former teammate.

Yet again, we see pAula facing off against a past team. Now leading BBL, he has an opportunity to defeat both teams he used to play for. With how much the Turkish VALORANT scene has grown since the game’s release, this game at VCT EU Challengers 1 will be a must-watch of current Turkish talent.

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