There may be no team that elicits more emotion from European fans than G2 eSports. From their “vacation” before MSI, to their embarrassing Worlds performance, G2 has failed to deliver Europe the glory their two consecutive EU LCS Championships have suggested. As an underwhelming Intel Extreme Masters approaches, G2 has yet to lose a series in Europe in over a year, yet many European fans have little faith in G2 to bring home a title after a year of disappointment.
All great journeys begin with a single step, a push or a moment that begins to turn the wheels of the epic. For G2 eSports, that romantic moment could easily have been a play at the 2013 IEM Katowice Masters that forever altered the destiny of Carlos “Ocelote” Rodríguez Santiago.
Less than a year later, Ocelote would announce his departure from SK Gaming, a move he claimed was “just motivational” and a decision that he had made months prior to actually leaving the team. Soon after Ocelote would form his own team, G2 eSports. Starting from the bottom of the EU Challenger Scene, Ocelote would form a team around himself that he handpicked, funded, and housed.
After struggling in their first year Ocelote made the difficult decision to completely revamp the roster and retire from competitive play. After toiling for almost two years in the Challenger Scene, G2 broke through to the EU LCS, defeating Ocelote’s former team SK Gaming 3-2 to earn a coveted spot in Europe’s top level of competition.
G2 exploded on to the EU LCS Scene, going 15-3 in their first split and capturing the EU LCS 2016 Spring Split Championship. Quickly becoming fan favourites as rising stars in Europe, their EU LCS Championship qualified them for the Mid-Season Invitational as Europe’s representative. Many analysts had G2 projected for a second or third place finish at MSI, a tournament that had gained international importance as the top 4 teams’ regions would automatically be granted the top pool positions for the World Championship Group Stage.
In short, it all fell apart for G2. An abysmal showing at MSI saw G2 finish in fifth place, costing Europe their top seed at Worlds and crippling their international reputation. The “G2-8” meme was born and the sting was worsened after being swept by North America’s Counter Logic Gaming.
The same traits that had drawn many fans to G2 only intensified with the fall of their public image after MSI. The swagger and bad boy persona was now perceived as irritable cockiness and over-confidence, and excuse of the team treating the tournament as a “vacation” infuriated fans who felt G2 had been unprepared for a tournament with lasting consequences for Europe’s perception and chances to advance at the World Championships.
Undeterred, G2 eSports strengthened their roster and their resolve. Adding Europe’s best bot lane duo in Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez, the reigning champions would surely not disappoint a second time. They completed the Summer Split without losing a single series and rolled once again to an EU LCS Championship.
Fortuitously, G2’s failures at MSI were not punished in their group draw for the 2016 World Championships. Although they were placed with South Korea’s ROX Tigers, they were also grouped with one of the two wildcard qualifiers, Albus NoX Luna and Counter Logic Gaming, coming off of a fourth-place finish in the NA LCS and who had only qualified off the points earned from their success in the prior split. The relative weakness of the group led many to call it a group with ROX, G2, and two wildcards; a spot in the Quarter-finals seemed almost assured.
Once again, it all fell apart for G2. The opening match against CLG showcased a dominant performance by the NA squad, gaining an early lead and easily dismantling the EU Champions. From that point it would only get worse for G2, finishing last in the group and tied for the worst record in the tournament with a 1-5 finish. The pride of Europe had imploded on the international stage… again.
It has now been over a year since G2 has lost a series in Europe, but for many fans, the damage to their reputation may be too significant to overcome. As the face of the EU LCS, G2 carried the hopes of an entire region with them, an honour many fans felt they disrespected at MSI and failed once again to deliver upon at Worlds. Still, heading into the IEM World Championship in Katowice G2 likely stands as Europe’s best chance for international success once again.
Winning IEM will not do much to restore G2’s reputation, but that is not through their own fault. A victory over a weak tournament pool that has seen the two best teams outside of Europe (Cloud9 and EDG) pull out of the tournament in the past few weeks would only solidify G2’s place as the best team in Europe.
It may provide the gravitas the team seek, but an IEM victory will serve as a step in the right direction towards restoring the faith of Europe in G2. If they win, fans will grudgingly have to once again place their faith in G2 to win the EU LCS and find redemption at 2017’s MSI.
The Katowice Intel Extreme Masters is G2 eSports’s tournament to win, one they can not afford to lose if they want to salvage what is left of their international reputation. Even if they are unable to capture the title, the failure of any of the three European teams to win would be another embarrassment for an already besieged European reputation. IEM is the next step in G2’s journey back into the light, one they must take forward.