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In the first match with a live crowd at the VALORANT Champions Tour 2022 Stage 2 Masters tournament, FunPlus Phoenix finally beat Fnatic and made it to the top three. The two teams have faced off before, three times regionally and once already in this tournament. All four of those times, FPX lost, mostly recently in a 2-0 sweep. Once FPX got their rematch in the lower bracket, it was clear they were craving that win over Fnatic.

Not only that, but in their last two wins, FPX qualified themselves for Champions and got some more LAN experience. Since they missed Stage 1 Masters, this debut at a 2022 LAN was a great start. At the same time, their expectations weren’t high. Even with the crowd cheering more for Fnatic than them, FPX played well when it mattered most.

“You still feel some pressure playing on stage, especially with the crowd cheering against us,” said player Kyrylo “ANGE1” Karasov. “Even then, we played well, didn’t experiment with Yoru picks, and it went well.”

That Yoru pick statement led to some laughs from the team, joking around. But, he was right in that sense, as FPX made better map vetos and composition choices this time around.

FPX started strong on all maps against Fnatic

Each map in the series, on Split, Bind and Fracture, FPX had a lead at halftime. It didn’t start great, with their first map’s 8-4 lead developing into a 15-13 overtime loss. But the team kept a simple mindset that many of the teams at the top follow: one round at a time.

“At this level, you play round by round,” said player Ardis “ardiis” Svarenieks. “You can’t take any lead for granted. Even if it’s a 12-4 lead, whatever it is, as soon as you do, you lose.”

ANGE1 hopped on that statement as well, commenting on how that helps narrow the focus for the team.

“Focusing round by round also helps relieve any pressure that the map or match builds up,” ANGE1 said.

Plus, it helped that in the top four of an international competition that FPX faced a familiar opponent. In those four previous matchups, two of them were three map losses. They clearly fought them close before, and this time around the team played cleanly enough to get the series win.

OpTic Gaming are next up for FunPlus Phoenix

Now that they’ve beaten Fnatic, FunPlus Phoenix will face OpTic Gaming on their Stage 2 Masters run. The Stage 1 Masters champions just lost to Paper Rex in an upset, and while FPX are familiar with OpTic as fans, ANGE1 admits that he doesn’t have any idea how the matchup between OpTic and FPX will go.

“I have no idea how it will go,” ANGE1 said. “Every time I watched OpTic before, it was as a viewer or fan instead of studying them. We don’t play like them, so we don’t study them either. We’ll prep either tomorrow morning or tonight, decide on the map vetos and try our best.”