(Banner image: Ubisoft/Kiril Bashkirov)
Team Vitality have been shocking viewers in the Sweden Major so far. They opened up their account with a 7-1 DarkZero Esports demolition on Nov. 8, and then took down defending Major champions Team oNe 7-5 on Nov. 9.
That Team oNe game was a tale of two halves — Team Vitality found themselves down 1-5 on their defense before turning on the style with a flawless 6-0 attacking half. And while the final result may seem as though it’s an upset, Valentin “risze” Liradelfo disagreed with that assessment. risze added that Team oNe wasn’t comparable to 2017-2019 G2 “yet,” not that defense against the team was easy.
“Defending Chalet against a play style such as Team oNe’s is quite hard,” said risze of the turnaround in a post-match press conference. “They are playing all the areas. We didn’t contest their entries … We figured it too late. Next time we will be ready.”
While this push to improve further after a win is admirable, Vitality haven’t been flawless in Group B. Their win against DarkZero was followed up by a surprising 3-7 loss to SANDBOX Gaming, who were surprisingly inept against Team oNe and lost to the Brazilians by a combined score of 3-14.
“I guess we lost the momentum because of some technical issues,” explained risze, citing two lengthy pauses in their SANDBOX match that had caused a delay north of 30 minutes. “They were leading 3-2 on our defense. Momentum was on their side [as a result of the delays].”
But risze stressed that SANDBOX were only “a little bit better” and that Team Vitality were capable of much more, as they demonstrated against Team oNe.
The snowball effect that the Koreans enjoyed was also partially due to the inexperience of Vitality at an international level. The French squad was last seen internationally almost two-and-a-half years ago at DreamHack Valencia 2019. The last and only other time it had qualified for a tier-one event was over three years ago at the Six Major Paris.
“We are learning how to play against different play styles that we haven’t seen before as a team,” continued risze. “The group stage is a learning process for us as well.”
That gap between Vitality’s international events also hasn’t come with the benefit of being underestimated, as APAC teams sometimes enjoy.
“I don’t think it’s an advantage,” said risze. “Sure, people don’t really expect us [to perform], but there is also people expecting us to actually do something in this Major. We just don’t pay attention to that.”
Thankfully for Vitality, Bastien “BiBooAF” Dulac has not missed a beat despite the hiatus. The “stage beast,” as Vitality head coach Laurie “Lyloun” Lagier put it, leads his team by way of SiegeGG Rating, K-D split, and KPR. With a 1.25 Rating so far, BiBooAF is also 12th-best amongst the entire Sweden Major field.
But BiBooAF has also been feeling the pressure, although the longtime Vitality man said that he’s “feeling good” back at this level.
“I think I have a lot of energy and … emotions to give and share with my teammates,” he explained. “It’s not done. We still have three matches, so [we’re] focused on that and we will see after that.”
That lift in emotions BiBooAF spoke of was abundantly clear amongst the Vitality players, especially risze, who was effusive in his praise for the 24 year-old.
“BiBoo is a team pillar and is really helping people to stay in the game, mentally. He is actually the cement of the team, if you can see … I think BiBoo offline [is far better than] BiBoo online,” said risze, miming the “Swole Doge vs. Cheems” meme with his hands.
Team Vitality currently find themselves in third place after a 1-7 loss to DarkZero on Nov. 9. To qualify for the playoffs, the French team will need to beat SANDBOX Gaming with a score of 7-2 or better, or beat Team oNe again and hope that DarkZero beat the Koreans as well.