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It felt like nothing could stop KRÜ Esports as they reached match point on Split. The Latin American squad was only one round away from securing a spot in the VALORANT Champions semifinal, yet they were still worried about Fnatic clutching an unlikely comeback. Coach Rodrigo “Onur” Dalmagro called a timeout to help keep his players cool.

“We knew that they had Viper’s ultimate. They like to use it [mid-map],” Onur said, adding that he knew Fnatic liked to filter through ropes on Split in this situation. “By that logic, we thought that A was going to be weak. We tried to figure out the best tactic for that round but it didn’t work out.”

KRÜ Esports rushed A after the timeout, but Fnatic handled them with ease. The round win didn’t end up meaning much, as Nicolas “Klaus” Ferrari and company closed the map and series down soon after in a 13-8 win. Fnatic weren’t worried throughout the map; they believed they could bounce back to win it all.

Fnatic reflect on VALORANT Champions

“We always focus on the next round. We play every round the same,” Fnatic player Martin “Magnum” Peňkov said. “For example, Split, even when we were losing 5-10, the mood was better than it was on Icebox. We’re just cheering and hyping each other up, even during those tough moments.”

FNATIC Champions
Fnatic and Cloud9 shake hands after a match at VALORANT Champions in Potsdam, Germany. | Photo by Lance Skundrich. Provided by Riot Games

Fnatic came into Champions with a chip on their shoulder, after coming so close in Iceland. The European squad was plopped in Group D alongside Cloud9, Vision Strikers and FULL SENSE. Some dubbed it the “group of death.” Fnatic’s in-game leader Jake “Boaster” Howlett said that their group was given that name because everyone else had to go through them. He was right.

The team made up of Czech, Croatian, English and Finnish players beat both Cloud9 and Vision Strikers, using trash talk from Kim “stax” Gu-taek to motivate themselves and get out of the group stage. While Onur said he believes that Fnatic may have underestimated KRÜ Esports after scouting their matches against the North Americans and South Koreans, Magnum believes they lost because of their own mistakes.

“We didn’t underestimate them. They have good maps, we have good maps,” Magnum said. “I think if there was a rematch, we could go 3-0 on all three maps but, sadly, that didn’t go through. They are a good team but I don’t think they are better than us, even though that isn’t realistic to say because they beat us.”

Fnatic look forward to 2022

“This really looked like a battle of titans to me,” EMEA VCT caster Matt ‘Twiggy” Twigg said. “KRÜ definitely understood Fnatic’s map pool in and out. We’ve only seen Fnatic take wins on Icebox and Fracture this event (only one of which featured in this series) but, more than anything, KRÜ’s mentality and consistency left nothing to be desired — from clutching out the overtimes on Haven to dusting themselves off after Icebox. They barely made a mistake at all.”

Magnum and other Fnatic players said that they enjoyed their time in Germany, apart from the low quality practice PCs. Boaster got to display more wild antics, holding up a sign that read “When does TSM play?” after beating Cloud9. The team is excited to get back to the grind for next year’s VALORANT Champions Tour.

“I’m glad they managed to make a tournament this big with COVID-19,” he said, before apologizing to fans for not showing up in the quarterfinals match. “I think that 2022 will be bigger for us.”

The next series of matches will kick off at 12 p.m. EST on Dec. 11. Team Liquid will take on Acend before KRÜ Esports faces Gambit Esports.

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