(Banner image: Ubisoft/Kiril Bashkirov)
Team Empire is off to a bad start in Sweden after a shocking defeat against Group D underdogs DWG KIA and Spacestation Gaming, which was the only American side to win a game on Day 1. But, when have Empire been off to a good start in 2021?
Looking back to the Mexico Major, the Russians’ first two matches were a 5-7 loss against Team Liquid and an 8-6 win against Invictus Gaming. With the team underperforming and being kept alive thanks to Danila “dan” Dontsov impressive performances, the viewership did not predict the Russians to have a good time in Mexico.
However, the tables turned and Empire went on to defeat NA’s and EU’s favorites Spacestation Gaming and BDS Esport, just before trailing to Team oNe in the Grand Final.
If we go way back to the beginning of the season, Team Empire’s first stage was one to forget as the Russians finished in eighth place. Nowadays, they are Europe’s second-best team in the standings. So if someone can recover from a bad start, this is Team Empire.
“Russians start (to) work when they know they will be kicked from the tournament,” said Danil “JoyStiCK” Gabov in a Ubisoft-organized press conference.
Empire’s first result was shocking to say the least, as they fell to the underdogs DWG KIA (3-7). The Russians had the last ban in the map-ban phase, and they had to choose between two of their weakest maps after DWG KIA banned Kafe, Club and Coastline: Oregon and Villa. Empire’s map-pool is known to be short, especially after Consulate being removed from it. With the introduction of Bank, the options are reduced.
“We are struggling in our map pool, Oregon is not our best map, so maybe it was our fault and we had to play another map,” said JoyStiCK.
In fact, Team Empire’s second match of the day was played in Villa, with again the Russians having the last ban. The map-ban phase was exactly the same as the one seen in their match against the Koreans, with the only difference being in Empire choosing the Italian map over Oregon.
Team Empire could have easily taken that game. But two impressive clutches in the very first two rounds of the game eventually decided the result. Alec Fultz shut down Empire’s efforts in round one as he clutched in a 1v4 situation, while Nathanial “Rampy” Duvall produced what could be the best play of the year in the following round: a 1v5 with Thunderbird, as he got an HP boost just before getting hit by a couple of Russian bullets which extended his life long enough to stop Empire from planting and winning the round.
“It was unlucky, we were a bit overhyped about this match and you know, over peeking, and that’s why we lost those two rounds,” said JoyStiCK.
But the Russian player thinks that it is not over just yet. “If you are close to going home, Russians start to think, Russians start to play, Russians start doing everything to win,” he added.
In order to stay alive in the tournament, Team Empire must get a positive result today against FURIA Esport, which will be followed by their second match against DWG KIA.
“Brazilian teams are aggressive and we know it, we have to be more patient, if you wait for them it might work,” concluded JoyStiCK.
Team Empire first game of the day will be against DWG KIA at 12:00 UTC.