Signalling the end of the ninth competitive season, the 2019 World Championship came to a close this weekend where the 6th winner of the tournament was crowned
Signalling the end of the ninth competitive season, the 2019 World Championship came to a close this weekend where the 6th winner of the tournament was crowned. 24 hopeful teams from around the world were reduced to only 2 after weeks from competition across Europe, with Paris’ AccorHotels Arena the setting for the grand final in front of 20,000 passionate fans.
To the Western audience, FPX came into the 2019 World Championship as a relatively unknown side and expectations were mixed as a result. Though the team entered as China’s first seed (having won the LPL this Summer), it was the first taste of Worlds competition for both the organisation as well as most of their players.
The group stage (held in Berlin) provided a favourable draw for FunPlus, coming up against European third seed Splyce, Taiwanese first seed J Team and Vietnamese second seed GAM Esports. Though an unexpected defeat in their opening game against J Team wasn’t the ideal start, they ultimately qualified comfortably as the group’s first seed to head into the knockout stage.
The quarter-final pitted FPX against the 2018 World Championship runner-up; Fnatic. Not only did Fnatic reach the final last year, but they are an organisation with experience in winning a World Championship having claimed the very first in 2011. Although they struggled earlier in the season after losing star mid-laner Caps to G2 in the off-season, Fnatic had shown exceptional improvement throughout the year and looked a tough task for FunPlus.
With the home advantage behind them in Madrid, Fnatic were ultimately no match for FPX as China’s first seed qualified for the semis with a swift 3-1 victory.
After facing the 2018 runner up in the quarter-final, FunPlus Phoenix now had the challenge of taking down the holders Invictus Gaming in the semi-final. Not only were IG a rival LPL organization, but they also happened to be the only side to defeat FPX during their stellar 14-1 run during the Summer regular season.
Staged in Madrid once again, FunPlus put a stamp of authority on the tournament by swatting the holders aside in another 3-1 win, setting up a final with Europe’s G2 Esports.
While G2 had been leading the plaudits in their side of the bracket, using the home crowds as their sixth man to earn their place in the final, FPX had been knocking out previous tournament giants and set up a final spectacle worthy of the occasion.
It was in the final where FunPlus Phoenix’s story came to its fairytale end. The underdogs in most eyes, the LPL hopefuls not only had to go against the tournament favourites, not only had to go against all analysts predictions, but also had to go against a 20,000 strong Paris crowd all rooting for their demise.
A final that was supposed to be fiercely competed against the strongest team to ever come out of Europe looked more akin of a block of scrims, as FPX came out easy winners in a devastating 3-0 sweep.
Tian’s jungle pressure showed one of the greatest performances in a World Championship final as he was able to constantly set up and execute plays throughout the series, gaining advantages all over the map before opposing jungler Jankos was able to even think about setting up a gank.
Mid-laner Doinb, who was questioned by Fnatic’s Nemesis as having a weak laning phase for a player at this level, thrived with his unique roaming style as his out-of-lane play excelled FPX’s fluid movement around the map and allowed them to go from objective to objective with ease.
An unkilled LWX showed G2’s Perkz that he still has some way to go with his ADC performances, as the Chinese carry was far too slippery (with the aid of support Crisp’s stellar peel) for the Europeans to make a pick.
Ultimately, the one-sided nature of the final was best summarised by series MVP Tian in his post-game interview, where he explained that FPX’s performance levels perhaps did not warrant such a one-sided result, but rather the lack of fight from G2 led to the shocking finish.
Though not the MVP of the grand final, Doinb was undoubtedly the standout player of the tournament. His story has captured the imagination of millions and his personal fanbase has skyrocketed.
A fun, unpredictable mid-laner, the China-based Korean had almost retired at the end of the 2018 season after failing to qualify for Worlds for all of his four-year career so far. However, his wife ultimately inspired him to keep going and stuck by his side through every following step as he went on to become a World champion.
On the Rift, Doinb re-wrote the script for a mid-laner, favouring off-meta picks designed to allow him to freely roam the map and set up opportunities for his side.
Having been scrutinised throughout his tournament run, the now-World champion came up against a mid-lane prodigy in Caps for the final series against G2. An equally unpredictable opponent, Caps is known for pushing his limits to the extreme and pulling off plays that nobody else sees coming. However, Doinb’s immense pressure all over the map stumped Caps, who could only do his best try to match Doinb’s roams and was prevented from setting up plays himself.
Despite entering Worlds as China’s first seed, which would always place teams amongst the tournament favourites, FPX largely flew under the radar due to the hype surrounding G2’s grand slam attempt as well as SKT’s rebuild-led comeback.
Even as the games progressed, FPX were never considered the greatest challengers for the title.
Even until the final series.
For fans who put their trust in FunPlus to become the LPL’s second successive World champion, the final result has proved to be a worthy win and the whole region can now deservedly begin to celebrate.