Taking a deep dive into the first round of matches in the Worlds 2021 Knockout Stage.
After weeks of competition, the 2021 LoL World Championship has reached its Main Event Knockout Stage. The 22 teams that entered the tournament have whittled down to only eight. Now, the best-of-five format comes into play, giving those that remain the chance to truly shine and show their brilliance in the biggest event of the year.
The Quarterfinals begin this weekend with four incredible matchups sure to deliver the highest quality of games. But how will the matchups go? And who are the favorites to win each match? Anything can happen at Worlds, and with their own dreams and the hopes of their regions on their shoulders, each and every one of these teams will be ready to go all-out in these first crucial matches!
T1 vs Hanwha Life Esports
The first match of the weekend is between two of the LCK's four teams, T1 and Hanwha Life Esports. Though it's a matchup between two Korean teams, it's one that's more exciting than most could be. Both of these teams were considered to be pretty good heading into Worlds 2021, but not on the level of, say, DAMWON. However, their performances up to this point have truly been world-class. It seems T1 and Hanwha have both found their stride and proved they're real competitors, like DAMWON is, though maybe to different degrees.
When thinking about this match, it's impossible not to focus in on the mid lane. The GOAT Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok versus the legendary Jeong "Chovy" Ji-hoon. These two players, obviously, are known across the globe for being the best mid laners in the world. While there are others in that conversation of couse, Faker and Chovy make strong bids for themselves and are crucial to their teams' success. No matter what happens, the mid lane is sure to be an explosive treat to watch.
From what we've seen so far, T1 is likely the favorite for this match. Though Hanwha has looked good so far, T1 has a devastating early game many teams can't keep up with. And the individual skill levels of their team outweigh those of Hanwha, who are very reliant on Chovy and ADC Kim "Deft" Hyuk-kyu. Along with this, T1's competition was a bit more difficult, as they even toppled LPL giants EDG to claim first place in their group, while Hanwha had a relatively easier time only having to beat out PSG Talon and a fractured Fnatic. Everything considered, this match could easily go 3-1 in favor of T1. Hanwha won't go down easy but T1 should be able to knock their LCK brethren down without too much issue.
Royal Never Give Up vs Edward Gaming
The second match is another regional rematch, between the LPL's RNG and EDG. Being from the LPL, a region many believe to be the best region in the world, at least before Worlds started and Korea upset the apple cart a bit, both teams have huge expectations riding on their shoulders. Especially so with FunPlus Phoenix making an early exit from Worlds 2021. It's unfortunate they're on the same side of the bracket, and in the first match together too, as only one of them will be able to carry their region's ambitions for another World Championship victory.
One of the more interesting matchups to consider here will be between the bottom lane duos, specifically in the AD Carry matchup. RNG's Chen "GALA" Wei is following in his predecessor Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao's as the organization's star player, while Park "Viper" Do-hyeon has been absolutely smurfing at Worlds in a lot of EDG's games. There's no doubt that there will be a ton of action in the bottom lane in this series. And if either of these two players gets ahead, it's GG.
Before Worlds 2021 even started, RNG and EDG were considered to be tournament favorites. And both of them still are, which means this will be an absolute banger to watch. However, this makes it a very hard match to predict because they're fairly similar in power level. It could definitely go in either team's favor, but a decent prediction would be a 3-2 victory for EDG.
DAMWON KIA vs MAD Lions
On the lower side of the bracket is a frankly worrying matchup between the LCK's DAMWON KIA and the LEC's MAD Lions. The reigning World Champions DWG KIA are here to make Finals, no ifs ands or buts. With an undefeated Group Stage run, that's clear to see. On the opposite side of the Rift is the European hopefuls MAD Lions, who showed magnificent form in the LEC Finals but haven't had the same spark in Worlds so far. To be fair, they did get out of their group, which means they're no slouches. But can they really take it to the kings?
It's hard to say, but if there was a way, it could be through the top lane. Coming from FPX last year, Kim "Khan" Dong-ha is a player that some may say is cursed, joining World Championship teams then not winning Worlds himself. While it can't be disputed that he's a fantastic player, he isn't usually the focal point of his team. Because of that, it gives MAD's İrfan Berk "Armut" Tükek a distinct opportunity. Armut is known for being a strong laner and having unique counter picks, most notably the Wukong, and can be a menace if put in an advantageous matchup. If anything, this may be a way MAD can gain leverage in the series.
But at the end of the day, this is looking like a lopsided series. Unfortunately for European fans, DWG KIA simply looks a league above MAD. There is certainly a chance for an upset, and MAD can probably at least take a game off DWG KIA, but the prediction is a 3-1 win for DAMWON.
Gen.G vs Cloud9
Last but certainly not least is the LCK's Gen.G versus the LCS's Cloud9. Coming out of the Group Stage, many considered Gen.G to be the weakest Pool One seed and Cloud9 to be the most unpredictable Pool Two seed. So it's funny that both these teams wanted the other to face off against, and it's exactly what they got. So far in this World Championship, neither of these teams' paths to the Quarterfinals was easy. Gen.G faltered a bit in Group D but recovered in the final day's tiebreakers. Meanwhile, Cloud9 started with a 0-3 record and had to pull off a miracle to get here. With that in mind, who can make the next step?
That question will be answered by who's jungler is stepping up that day. Gen.G's Kim "Clid" Tae-min and C9's Robert "Blaber" Huang have both been instrumental in their teams' victories this year. Of course, there's no lack of star power on either of these teams. But the jungle matchup can swing this series heavily. When Clid or Blaber is ahead, they're absolute monsters and take over games. On the flip side, if they're set behind, they're prone to some questionable games, to say the least. Because of this, both teams will seriously need to focus on that jungle matchup.
To wrap things up, Gen.G vs Cloud9 should be an interesting series for sure. It feels like it could go either way, and the form Cloud9 comes in on will decide which way it goes. They've had a turbulent year, with very high highs and very low lows. They're a bit of a coinflip but the coin might just flip in their favor on Monday. That said, the slightly NA hopium-fueled prediction will be a stressful 3-2 win for Cloud9.