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Team Liquid opened the EMEA VCT 2022 season with an 0-2 loss to Gambit Esports. Timofey “Chronicle” Khromov with a 48/23/13 KDA, and the rest of the team, were just a step ahead of Liquid in both maps.

Still, Team Liquid were not completely overwhelmed. While Gambit went up 11-3 on Icebox, Liquid had begun a comeback attempt and eventually went down 13-9. According to Team Liquid’s Dom “soulcas” Sulcas, the loss in both maps came down to the rough starts.

“We didn’t have too many rounds to play off of on the attacking side. We didn’t have too many over buffer in case we lost a few rounds. Maybe we got a bit too overconfident towards the end and we thought there was potentially saving, so that made a few of our players move, especially that last round.”

Gambit Esports came out strong in both maps. After their silver-medal finish at VALORANT Champions, the Russian team is considered one of the strongest in the region and a direct competitor for first place in Team Liquid’s VCT group.

But, soulcas explained, despite Gambit playing unusual comps (such as Ayaz “nAts” Akhmetshin playing on Sage), the loss was moreso due to TL not playing to their own standard. However, Gambit’s ideas and strategies are exceptional and caught Team Liquid off guard, according to soulcas. To him, it felt more like they had to “shake off the rust” of playing official matches.

TL wanted revenge for missing Masters Berlin

The last time Team Liquid and Gambit met, it was in the Stage 3 playoffs for Masters 3: Berlin. In the lower bracket, Gambit knocked Team Liquid out of contention. So, for their first match-up in VCT 2022, Team Liquid aimed to punch back.

“We always wanted to play against them again after that match,” soulcas said. “We were super confident that we could take them down. It was unfortunate. I have a feeling that next time we play them, it’ll be a closer game.”

With the new groups into playoffs format, it’ll be a while until Team Liquid faces Gambit again, if at all. Those who survive the group stage get to play for a top three spot for Masters 1 in the knockout stage. However, there is only one opportunity in Challengers to make it. Everything comes down to this main event. To soulcas, that means there is more pressure outside the matches, but not during.

“There is extra pressure, but most of us don’t think about it too much,” he said. “Once you get into the games, you kind of just zone out from the outside world. With these types of tournaments, where everything is on the line, it’s really important to just zone out and focus on the game itself.”

However, playing so many games before playoffs begin means one loss is not the end of the world. Team Liquid’s defeat at the hands of one of the best teams in the VCT does not put a dent in their confidence. But, that comes with a risk of complacency.

“Any team can upset any team now,” soulcas said. “It’s always important to never be complacent, but we always knew that Gambit would be the toughest out of everyone in the group. We have to stay composed and not underestimate any team.”

Na’Vi vs. Team Liquid

Team Liquid’s next match is against Natus Vincere in Week 2. They will close off the EMEA weekend on Sunday, Feb. 20. Team Liquid may be considered one of the best in Group A, but soulcas is excited to face Na’Vi.

“Especially with their changes with Jady. They have really great firepower and they are also a top contender if they perform how they usually do. The games in practice are quite neck-and-neck but it always changes when it comes to official matches, obviously. But I’m super pumped to play that match, especially now that we can watch back and see mistakes that usually happen in first games. Once we iron those out, it’ll be a good match.”

As for teams that aren’t quite on-par with Team Liquid, soulcas said the teams that won’t survive the VCT 2022 Challengers 1 group stage involve LDN UTD and BIG Esports. However, he reiterated that they can’t be underestimated.

“At this rate, any team can beat anyone the way teams are really working hard to be the best they can be.”

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