After a shaky Game 1 start, SUMN FC came back against FunPlus Phoenix to win the second and third maps, securing their spot in the European First Strike grand final.
As two teams similar in playstyle, many had high hopes that this would be a highly combative and entertaining series, but few gave SUMN a real shot at actually beating FunPlus Phoenix (FPX) in a best-of-three. With renowned players such as Kirill “ANGE1” Karasiow and Pontus “Zyppan” Eek, taking FPX down was always going to be a challenge for SUMN FC.
From Complete Control to Chaotic Collapse
At the conclusion of Split, FunPlus Phoenix had taken the first map commandingly, and the tournament hopes of SUMN FC were beginning to look bleak. FPX were able to enact the methodical and controlled style they love to play, suffocating SUMN out of the game.
In fact, there barely seemed to be a moment in their 13 – 4 victory that seemed out of FPX’s control. It wasn’t that SUMN didn’t come prepared, as they clearly had some clever tactics at the ready, but FPX in-game-leader ANGE1 came ready himself, and his team was able to make the proper adaptations.
Mechanically, the FPX players also looked very strong on their first map. Andrey “Shao” Kiprsky had a brilliant performance on Split, maintaining a KDA (kill/death/assist) of 23/5/8 and averaging a combat score of 356.
Yet, somewhere over the course of the next two maps, the members of FunPlus Phoenix just lost complete control over their grip. SUMN started to slip through their fingers, and FPX’s monumental collapse would soon ensue.
The squad went from looking like the premier FPX that fans know and love to a group of five uncoordinated randoms.
A Battle Between Two Brains
With ANGE1 as their guiding light, it’s not often that FunPlus Phoenix find themselves out of their comfort zone, but that’s exactly where SUMN FC player and in-game-leader Jake “Boaster” Howlett intended to put them.
As someone who draws many comparisons to ANGE1 and even looks up to 31-year-old veteran, Boaster was eager to outduel his counterpart in a game of Valorant wits. With both leaders at the helm of their respective squads, the two defined this series with their calculated and methodical attempts to outplay each other.
ANGE1 came ready with his tactics out of the gate. FPX were getting the better of SUMN, with coordinated plays like pushing all the way to the attacker spawn on a pistol round defense. However, after Boaster warmed up for a little bit on Split, he came back strong on Haven and Bind.
By forcing FPX out of their comfort zone with intelligent plays, SUMN were able to scramble their opponents, and the snowball of round wins quickly started getting larger and larger.
Youngsters Taking Over
With the veterans on Team Liquid, G2 Esports, and Ninjas in Pyjamas all knocked out of the tournament, this was the time for the youngsters to step up on the biggest stage in Valorant thus far.
Domagoj “doma” Fancev, the 17-year-old out of Croatia, had a terrific series, picking up 50 kills across the three games and averaging a combat score of 268. The 19-year-old James “Mistic” Orfila had 51 kills, while 19-year-old Muhammad “Moe” Hariff secured himself 42.
On the side of FPX, youngster Shao had 50 kills, while Zyppan and Meddo had 39 and 33, respectively.
SUMN FC will move on to the grand final where they will face Team Heretics, who recently upset G2 Esports themselves. The hyped-up First Strike finale will take place Sunday, and will be streamed live on Twitch and YouTube.