BONECOLD says Acend will make it to grand final 'without dropping a map'
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Acend’s Santeri “BONECOLD” Sassi stood on camera, visibly happy after taking out Team Secret 2-0 in the first match of Champions quarterfinals on Wednesday. He didn’t believe that his Filipino opponents stood a chance on either of the first two maps, and he was right.

Now the Finnish player thinks his team can make it all the way to the grand final.

“I really feel the spot we are at we are playing at an extremely high level,” BONECOLD said. “If we keep the confidence we have now we can blast through the finals without dropping a map. We are really happy, satisfied, relaxed and focused. We’re just happy to be here and we going to throw everything at Champions.”

EMEA at VALORANT Champions
BONECOLD believes Acend can make it to the grand final and win it all | Photo by Lance Skundrich for Riot Games

Acend took each map with ease, building early leads on both Icebox and Breeze. They didn’t fall into Team Secret’s traps or let the Filipino team catch them off guard. Winning the first map also gave Acend a confidence boost since it was Team Secret’s map pick.

“They had a good read in every play we made,” Team Secret’s Jessie Cristy “JessieVash” Cuyco said. “[Losing IceBox] didn’t really affect us going into Map 2. We are a team that can move on after a lost map.”

Acend looking powerful at Champions

Acend came into Champions as a question mark for many other squads. The team made up of Polish, Turkish, Finnish and Ukrainian players wasn’t as favored as much as Gambit Esports, Team Liquid or even Sentinels. BONECOLD, however, was confident that they would make it out of groups before the tournament began.

“I had them down as getting through the group stage as first seed, so I can safely brag about that, but I definitely didn’t think they’d look this dominant after their performance against Vivo Keyd,” said EMEA VCT caster Matt ‘Twiggy’ Twigg. “I think a lot of people will dismiss their run so far as being relatively easy, but none of their opponents have been anything but brilliant, so they’ve far exceeded my expectations.”

Vivo Keyd shakes hands with Acend after their initial match
Vivo Keyd shakes hands with Acend after their initial match | Photo by Michal Konkol for Riot Games

Acend began Champions with a loss to Vivo Keyd where the European team looked far from great. Both teams were forced to replay Breeze after the Brazilians used an illegal camera exploit on the map. Acend began the replay with a seven point advantage. They eventually won the map and series.

“I would definitely have avoided replaying the match after it had already been concluded,” Twiggy said. “But in the end Vivo Keyd violated the rules and regardless of whether I think the punishment was harsh or lenient it was definitely fair.”

Acend and the Vivo Keyd controversy

Acend players received a barrage of death threats and hate mail from Brazilian fans after the competitive ruling. It didn’t help that Acend players taunted Vivo Keyd after barely coming out with a win during the match replay.

“I feel like myself and the whole team have gotten past [the Vivo Keyd situation]. It was a few rough days but we’re really mature outside the game,” BONECOLD said before adding that they got just as much love from Acend fans as they did hate from Brazilians. “We’re just looking ahead to our future games.”

Acend will play either Cloud9 or Team Liquid in the semifinals of VALORANT Champions, although BONECOLD would prefer a rematch against Team Liquid after losing to them in the grand final of the Red Bull Home Ground #2. BONECOLD added that his team plans to continue playing with the same ferocity going forward.

He mentioned a mantra that he’s held himself himself that’s helped him at Champions. He wants to “play first and lead second.”

“I feel like it frees up more space for my teammates to talk at the start and middle of a round,” he said. “It doesn’t lock me up or make someone do something just because I told them. We’re playing extremely dynamically.”

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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