In sports, we have this term, “Cinderella team.” It refers to a situation in which an underdog severely exceeds what anyone would reasonably expect of them. As these teams don’t come around often, we remember them by this prestigious title after they have made deep runs in the tournament. We must not forget, however, that all Cinderella teams have a beginning: the first upset they achieve in the tournament. For the Season 7 League of Legends World Championships, if there are going to be any Cinderella teams, they will begin their runs over the next couple days.
Before we get into the knockout matches of the play-in stage, let’s recap what happened in the group stage. In Group A, Team WE (4-0) secured first place, but not without being challenged in some close games by Lyon Gaming (2-2). Lyon moved on as the second-place finisher, while Gambit eSportsports (0-4) returned home after failing to secure a single victory.
In Group B, Cloud9 (4-0) dominated every game by playing through its midlaner, Jensen, which left Team oNe (2-3) and Dire Wolves (1-4)to play a tiebreaker to decide which would move on. Team oNe avenged Brazil’s losses to Oceania at the Mid-Season Invitational by beating Dire Wolves in the tiebreaker match.
In Group C, Fnatic (3-1) dropped its last game to Young Generation (2-2), but only after securing first place. Young Generation’s victory over Fnatic secured it second place, while Kaos Latin Gamers (1-3) had to pack its bags.
In Group D, Rampage (0-4) simply couldn’t find a winning formula, dropping every game, which left 1907 Fenerbahçe (4-1) and Hong Kong Attitude (3-2) to duke it out for first place in a tiebreaker match. 1907 Fenerbahçe eventually found the upper hand, after a well-played early game from Hong Kong Attitude.
The knockout matches of the play-in stage were drawn soon after the conclusion of the group stage. On Sept. 28, Cloud9 will play against Lyon Gaming, and Fnatic will face off against Hong Kong Attitude. The next day, 1907 Fenerbahçe will play Team oNe, and Team WE will play against Young Generation.
These matches will be best-of-fives, with the winner moving on to the Group Stage of Worlds 2017, where the tournament really ramps up in intensity and competition. Here are my predictions for the results of the knockout matches.
Cloud9 vs. Lyon Gaming
While Lyon Gaming may be able to mechanically keep up with Cloud9, it simply does not have the macro-knowledge to beat Cloud9. Lyon failed to close out its first game against Team WE and allowed Team WE to sneak a baron in its second match, while Cloud9 again and again showed superior teamfighting and macro-play. Seiya’s dominance in the midlane will be curtailed by not only Jensen, but also Contractz, who showed great synergy with his midlaner. Lyon’s sole advantage is in the bot-lane, which was where the Dire Wolves punished Cloud9. If Lyon can build up enough of a lead in the bot-lane, Whitelotus should be able to carry Lyon to a victory. But, at the end of the day, I still pick Cloud9 because I believe its superior macro-play can make up for most disadvantages that its bot-lane incurs.
Prediction: Cloud9 wins 3-1
Fnatic vs. Hong Kong Attitude
I honestly thought about the result of this series for a while, and still I don’t think I have a significant favorite. Both teams have shown flashes of brilliance where they make genius macro-decisions that turn the tides of games. Fnatic snuck a baron against Lyon Gaming in its second match, and Hong Kong Attitude out-rotated 1907 Fenerbahçe several times in its matches against each other. However, both teams have also reached new lows. Fnatic got backdoored by Young Generation, and Hong Kong Attitude has had multiple barons stolen from it. If I had to make a choice, I would pick Hong Kong Attitude because both M1ission and Unified can be depended on to perform, while it is only Rekkles for Fnatic; Caps has lost lane multiple times in the play-in stage so far. It will be a very close series that could go either way, but I give Hong Kong Attitude a slight edge.
Prediction: Hong Kong Attitude wins 3-2
1907 Fenerbahçe vs. Team oNe
I expect 1907 Fenerbahçe to sweep this series because Team oNe simply has not proven that it can compete with the skill level of the international stage. The play-in group stage revealed the flaws in Team oNe’s style of play. Their comfort picks simply don’t work at the international level, and its wins only came off of Absolut scaling on Tristana to eventually carry the team. 1907 Fenerbahçe simply outclasses Team oNe in terms of both mechanics and macro-play. Both Frozen and Padden have played extremely well for 1907 Fenerbahçe, and Crash has done a good job of outjungling his opponent. 1907 Fenerbahçe’s games versus Team oNe will probably end up looking very similar to their games versus Rampage: quick, decisive stomps.
Prediction: 1907 Fenerbahçe wins 3-0
Team WE vs. Young Generation
Team WE should win this series because it is simply the more consistent team. The game rarely falls out of their reach before the 30-minute mark, at which point Mystic begins to hit the power spikes on his champion and build. Nevertheless, I expect Young Generation to take at least one game because their star midlaner, Frozen, who played extremely well during the play-in group stage, is matched up against Xiye, who has struggled to find success at Worlds so far. If Padden can keep up with Mystic and Young Generation snowballs an advantage it earns in the midlane, it’ll be able to beat Team WE before the game moves into the late-game.
Prediction: Team WE wins 3-1
We’re guaranteed to have at least one minor region team move on to the Group stage, as a result of 1907 Fenerbahçe and Team oNe facing off against each other. Minor regions have never been favored to make deep runs at Worlds. Albus Nox Luna almost did it last year, so it seems that the minor regions are knocking on the door. We’ll have to wait and see if one of these two teams, or if any other team, will have the right to be called a Cinderella team.
Tune into the play-in knockout matches starting at 8 p.m. PST on Sept. 27 and 28 on Twitch.tv, Youtube or LoLeSports.com.
Lawrence Zhao covers eSports. Contact him at [email protected].