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Esports: Valorant action gathers pace

Valorant Champions 2022 is the culmination of Riot’s 2022 tournament circuit and the Turkish crowd will be treated to some incredible Valorant over the next few weeks.

After several days of competition, we are already preparing to say goodbye to several teams, with two elimination matches on Monday afternoon.

KRU Esports vs XERXIA Esports (1pm, September 5)

KRU had the misfortune of playing VCT Masters: Copenhagen champions FunPlus Phoenix in their opening match and, despite a 2-0 defeat, they went down fighting, losing the maps 14-12 and 13-10 in a nail-biting affair.

Much of the same comments can apply to XERXIA, who lost their series to North American side XSET with 13-11 and 13-10 map defeats. Their misfortune was coming up against an unstoppable zekken, who dropped 56 kills across the two maps.

KRU are a known quantity on the international stage and, as such, they head into the match as overwhelming favourites. Their win condition, however, is the pairing of delz1k and Klaus playing to near their peak, as they were missing in their series against FunPlus Phoenix.

FNATIC vs FURIA (4pm, September 5)

One of the tournament favourites heading into Istanbul, no-one would have foreseen FNATIC sitting in the elimination match after their opening game against 100 Thieves.

Granted, they could not have had a much tougher opening game, given 100 Thieves’ recent momentum, but FNATIC were unable to rely on Boaster and Enzo that day, and they cannot afford for that to happen against FURIA.

Making the latter stages of Champions was always going to be difficult for FURIA, who qualified for the tournament in the Last Chance qualifier. Despite putting up stern resistance in the opening map against DRX, forcing overtime, they were outclassed on Haven, and this should be the end of the line for the South Americans.

Anything other than a FNATIC victory would be a huge surprise, but they will be acutely aware of the danger lurking in the decider match - 100 Thieves once more.

FunPlus Phoenix vs XSET (7pm, September 5)

Although they were a surprise winner of VCT Masters: Copenhagen on paper, FunPlus Phoenix have proven that success to be no fluke with subsequent performances back against European competition.

That run continued in their opening game of Champions, posting a gutsy victory over KRU, a game that was touted to be a close affair. KRU have a decent record on the international stage and FunPlus Phoenix emerge from that game with plenty of credit.

The same perhaps cannot be said of XSET, however, who were made to work very hard to beat XERXIA in a series that nearly went the distance on both maps. A 2-0 victory is the only statistic that matters, however, and they have the quality on the map to make this a close series.

FunPlus Phoenix are the most likely winners as the odds suggest, but XSET have a wildcard up their sleeve. zekken posted 56 kills in that match against XERXIA and if he is able to reproduce that level against FunPlus Phoenix, there is real upset potential in this match.

Paper Rex vs Team Liquid (3pm, September 7)

Paper Rex lost out at VCT Masters: Copenhagen in agonising fashion, suffering a 3-2 loss in the Grand Final, and Champions is a redemption mission for the Singapore squad.

That mission was made far tougher when they dropped into the Decider match following a surprise 2-0 loss to Leviatan and they can only be touted as narrow favourites when they take on Team Liquid.

The European squad also suffered a 2-0 loss to Leviatan in their opening match, but their individuals bounced back in an empathic victory over EDward Gaming and their win condition will be ScreaM, soulcas and Jamppi driving the team forward.

Expect a tight affair that should go the distance on both maps, with Team Liquid perhaps coming out on top owing to their extra firepower.

LOUD vs ZETA DIVISION

LOUD announced themselves on the world stage with a Grand Final appearance at Valorant Masters: Reykjavik in April, but they have failed to go on from that performance and exited VCT Masters: Copenhagen with two early defeats.

OpTic, who defeated them in Reykjavik, have been their bogey team and they were the side to drop them into the Decider match at this tournament, but they will be happy to see ZETA DIVISION on the docket for this deciding set.

These sides played in the opening match of the group and it was LOUD who comfortably dispatched ZETA DIVISION 2-0. Much of the same can be expected in the reverse fixture.

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