Upheavals, Excitement, and Tears at Worlds 2021

A Recap on the Group Stage of Worlds 2021


In Reykjavik, Iceland, 22 representatives from 11 regional leagues are battling it out at the largest eSports event of the year – the League of Legends World Championship (also known as Worlds). They all shared one goal – to become the 11th team to hoist the coveted Worlds trophy, known as the Summoner’s Cup. The Play-ins, Group Stage, Quarterfinals, and Semifinals have all concluded, leaving the two final teams to fight for the crown.

Let’s rewind a bit, and reflect on this year’s tournament; after all, Worlds 2021 featured some of the most shocking and thrilling matchups during the Group Stage. The drama and upsets caused shockwaves throughout the gaming community, spilling tears and bringing hope to entire regions.

Most memorable was the unexpected fall of FunPlus Phoenix (FPX) in Group A. As the 2019 World Champions and the second seed from China’s LPL, expectations for FPX were sky-high. Analysts and casters even placed them as the favorites to win the entire championship. Fans all over the world were already hyping up their anticipated success; after all, not much seemed to be in the way of this Chinese squad from blazing through Worlds, let alone the Group Stage.

FPX had a decent run in the first week with a 2-1 record, placing comfortably in second place in their group. The squad only dropped a game to Korea’s first seed, DWG KIA, who was also considered a powerful contender this year. Regardless, FPX still seemed to have tickets to the quarterfinals in their hands – the top two teams from the Group Stage would be allowed to advance to the next round.

Disaster struck for China’s champions when FPX had a shocking three-game losing streak in Week 2, dropping games left and right to Korea’s DWG KIA, Europe’s Rogue, and North America’s Cloud9. The humiliating cherry on top was that Rogue and Cloud9 were both third seeds from their respective regions, which were considered at least two tiers below China in skill. FPX finished their Group Stage run with a disappointing 2-4 record: they were forced to play a tiebreaker between Cloud9, Rogue, and themselves — which they lost, again. FPX ended up placing last in their group — something nobody saw coming. With one of the pre-tournament favorites getting dominated in just the Group Stage, Worlds might’ve just seen the biggest upset in League of Legends history.

On the other hand, Cloud9 (C9) rose as North America’s last hope, once again. Going 0-3 in Week 1, C9 seemed like just another North American representative that would fail to rank internationally. In Week 2, however, they climbed back up with two crucial wins, slotting themselves in for a tiebreaker to qualify for the next round (thanks to FPX completely dropping the ball in Week 2). The squad eventually pulled through, overcoming all the challenges thrown at them to place second in their group, and miraculously, qualifying for the quarterfinals. After witnessing two years of C9 failing to pass the Group Stage, North American fans rejoiced at the team’s incredible turnaround.

For group D, an incredibly close mud-fight broke out between four teams: Korea’s Gen.G, China’s LNG, Europe’s MAD Lions, and North America’s Team Liquid ended up in an unprecedented four-way tie, with all teams sitting at a 3-3 record. Two tiebreakers were played out, and eventually, Gen.G and MAD survived, leaving TL and LNG in the dust. Chinese fans were immensely let down by the fact that not one, but two of their representatives were eliminated. Though LNG was only the fourth seed from China, the LPL was still one of the strongest regions in the game. Both the audience and the players couldn’t hide their disappointment.

Jia-Le Ale Hu, the Top Laner of LNG, was emotional after getting eliminated from advancing to the Quarterfinals in Worlds 2021. (Courtesy of LNG eSports Official Twitter)

On the contrary, European fans were relieved to avoid the biggest disaster that could’ve happened to them. Two out of three European teams were already denied from making it to the quarters – MAD getting eliminated would’ve been the final nail in the coffin, signaling an end of the region’s run at Worlds 2021. Thankfully, MAD survived their group to continue their hopes.

We also saw a rise of a new minor region this year: Detonation FocusMe, the representative from Japan’s LJL, punched their tickets to the Group Stage for the first time in history. Japan was previously infamous for being the weakest region in the world — they have made exactly 0 appearances in the main Group Stage, always falling short in the Play-in Stage.

This year DFM placed a decisive first in their Play-in group and headed straight to the Group Stage, taking out South East Asia’s BYG, Russia’s UOL, and Turkey’s GS. Japanese fans were exhilarated – for minor regions, even making it onto the Group Stage and getting a chance to compete with the World’s best is an honor most teams never get to experience. While their run ended at the Group Stage, DFM and Japan still managed to make an impact.

The Japanese squad is thrilled to finally make it out of Play-ins. (Courtesy of eSports.com)

There’s no doubt that this year’s Worlds had the most exciting Group Stage of all time. Aside from the massive turnarounds mentioned, there were other reasons that the 2021 Worlds would go down in history: all four Korean teams made it out of Groups for the first time. The rest of the tournament was incredibly dramatic as well; over 3 million viewers were provided with intense series filled with rich history and action.

Stay tuned for the Grand Finals this Saturday, as it all comes down to Korea’s DK and China’s EDG clashing to lift the trophy.