Starxo says Acend's comp is 'perfectly balanced' before Champions' final
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As soon as every player on Acend joined the post-match Zoom call, they filled the call with jokes and laughter. The European team was clearly in high spirits after crushing Team Liquid in a quick 2-0 series that sent one of the tournament favorites home in a display that should put their eventual final opponent on alert. Acend will face either Gambit Esports or KRÜ Esports to close out Champions.

“What happened, happened,” Acend player Santeri “BONECOLD” Sassi said in response to a question about what led to the victory. The Finnish player had the same smile he had on the day he beat Team Secret. He said he believed his team could make it through the grand final without dropping a map. That confident prediction may come true on championship Sunday.

Team Liquid only secured 11 round wins across both Bind and Split, as Acend gave their European counterparts no time to breathe. Aleksander “zeek” Zygmunt led Acend’s charge on Bind with a 20/12 K/D while his countrymen Patryk “starxo” Kopczyński stomped through Split with a 20/10 K/D. Every player on Acend seemed relaxed, joking as if this wasn’t the biggest VALORANT tournament ever.

“We are LAN gods,” Mehmet Yağız “cNed” İpek said with a laugh. “We can say it.”

Acend sends Team Liquid home at Champions

Zeek said Acend are a completely different team than the one that lost 3-1 to Team Liquid at the Red Bull Home Ground #2 in London during November. Meanwhile, Team Liquid said they simply had an off day, with Adil “ScreaM” Benrlitom noting they struggled to counter Acend’s strong defensive play.

“It was a bit of an off day,” Nabil “Nivera” Benrlitom added. “It happens sometimes with practice. We have some that are really bad and other really good. It’s the first time it happened with [an] official match. It’s unfortunate. No one was [here] in terms of individual skill or communication.”

Acend Champions
Aleksander “zeek” Zygmunt and Travis “L1NK” Mendoza making their semifinals entrance | Photo by Lance Skundrich for Riot Games

Team Liquid players said they would have lost on “any map” if they played the way they did today. The European team had been on a major winning streak coming into Champions, although Travis L1NK Mendoza said they did not underestimate Acend. Sometimes teams get “steamrolled,” according to him.

ScreaM and Nivera said their experience at Champions has been a troubled one. Nivera tested positive for COVID-19 before Team Liquid’s first official match, meaning he had to play from a hotel room up until the quarterfinals. The moment Nivera tested negative and walked into the team’s practice room will be one of the few good memories they take home.

“We are proud of what we did, semifinals with a few weeks of practice,” ScreaM said. “It’s really hard to go all this way, I think. Next year will be another year. We’re going to learn from this and we’re going to build.”

By comparison, Acend players said they are the “best versions of themselves” right now. The European squad is one of the best teams on Bind and they nearly always consider that map a win, even against Team Liquid. Starxo said their composition is “perfectly balanced” and that Team Liquid didn’t have a Jett or Raze to counter them.

Acend in the Champions grand final

“I feel extremely confident right now,” BONECOLD said. “As a team we are playing out of our minds today. I feel like going against KRÜ or Gambit, they both are extremely  good opponents. Knowing we beat Team Liquid very convincingly, I’m happy to say it’s going to be a really good matchup against [either team].”

The European squad said they can counter either team, although zeek believes a matchup against KRÜ Esports would be more entertaining for the fans. The other teams Acend have played at the tournament believe that BONECOLD and company could win everything if they keep playing like they have been.

“They have been starting this tournament pretty slow,” ScreaM said. “The more the more they pay the more comfortable they are. I believe if they play like this they will win the tournament, even in a best of five.”

The VALORANT Champions grand final will take place on Sunday at noon ET.

Aron Garst looks at esports from a different point of view by tackling the ways games are molded and broken by players around the world. He covers Call of Duty, Fortnite, Super Smash Bros, and everything else for Upcomer. You can read his previous work at WIRED, Rolling Stone, ESPN and elsewhere. Rise up red sea.
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