Let's take a look at the five best matches of the weekend as these teams make one final push to qualify for the Major.
Europe remains in the spotlight after an entertaining start to the New Year by jumping into the final Regional before the Winter Major begins. Since only the first half of the tournament was played, lots of underdogs remain in the running, but some bigger teams are already out, like Guild Esports, Top Blokes, and Galaxy Racer. Let's take a look at the five best matches of the weekend as these teams make one final push to qualify for the Major.
5) European Major Winners Round 2 - Galaxy Racer vs Oxygen Esports
This was a rematch from their group stage matchup in the previous Grid's group stage, and with the same scoreline of Galaxy Racer 1-3 Oxygen Esports. Galaxy Racer have been a breakout team over the past few months, pushing for a spot in the top five of Circuit Points. However, with Oxygen defeating them in this matchup, Galaxy Racer sits at sixth with plenty of teams looking to move past them. Oxygen, while only at ninth, have had much better results over the past month. After finishing fourteenth in the Fall, they are now at ninth. They've set themselves up well to move into the Major on a good run of form.
This series finished 3-1, but the series felt just as close as some of the other Game 5s in the tournament. The final game was the only one where the margin of victory was greater than a goal. In typical fashion, Maello "AztraL" Ernst was involved in all of their goals in the final two games, but throughout the series, his teammates Thibault "Chaussette45" Grzesiak and Victor "Ferra" Francal were involved as well. Galaxy Racer are one the best up and coming teams this year, but veterans like Oxygen are always exciting to watch when playing to the level fans expect.
4) Europe Major Winners Round 2 - Giants Gaming vs TrainHard eSports
Another series without large margins of victory, Giants managed to squeak out with a victory after going down 1-2. Despite only one overtime, lasting an entire six seconds, the series was a nail biter. Game 1 was the only one that saw a team with a comfortable win. With their life on the line, Giants limited TrainHard to a measly seven shots over the final two games.
TrainHard would obviously have liked to come out with a win, but they have been flying under the radar as of late. At the end of the year, they were beginning to put up some interesting results and have been solid into this tournament. Besides their matchup here against Giants, all of their series have been sweeps. Taking down Wolves, Rix.GG, and FC Barcelona, they have guaranteed at least one hundred Circuit Points. After two Regionals finishing at 17th-24th, this is their chance to make a strong impression and breakthrough into the Major.
3) European Major Winners Round 1 - Redemption vs WOO
There is something so fascinating about watching some of the lower-ranked teams battle it out as they look to prove they deserve their spot among the elite of the region. Redemption was something of a fairy tale as they made their way as far as the Losers Quarterfinals in the second Regional, and they looked to keep that momentum going. Meanwhile, WOO made their first appearance in a Regional and have made quite a splash. They would take down Redemption and would defeat Guild Esports right after to set up a Winner's Quarterfinals match against Team Liquid next weekend.
Redemption had a chance to knock WOO down to the lower bracket, and looked like they would do so comfortably. In Game 5, they had a 2-0 lead with 1:06 left on the clock. WOO wouldn't be taken down so easily, though. They tied it up by scoring two goals in twelve seconds, and would secure another overtime victory to claim the win.
2) European Major Losers Round 2 - Solary vs Endpoint
With their lives on the line, Solary and Endpoint entered this match with a mixed run of results this far into the tournament. Solary were knocked to the losers bracket by getting dominated by Team Queso, and only barely managed to get by Wolves in Game 5. Endpoint lost their first series of the weekend to SauceSquad, but got back on track with a convincing win over Galaxy Racer.
Endpoint, fresh off of a finals appearance in the Grid, only scored two goals in the first two games. Despite this lack of offensive firepower, they managed to keep the series at 1-1. But in Game 3, Solary were able to beat them 4-3. That scoreline is a bit generous since Solary led 4-1 with ten seconds left and scored two "garbage time" goals.
Endpoint was able to turn around their fortunes after a lacklustre start by shutting down Solary's own offence. They only allowed two goals in the final two games with both results finishing 2-1. Endpoint might not have had the flashiest offensive performance, but the ability to win series by limiting opponent's ability to convert chances is impressive in its own right.
1) European Regional Winners Round 1 - Team Liquid vs Fadeaway
Many of the other Game 5 series in this tournament were filled with close games. This one began that way, but turned into a slugfest by the end. Fadeaway and Team Liquid have had a rough Winter Split, ranked 14th and 16th respectively, but have had their own flashes of brilliance from time to time. The series began with three straight games decided by a single goal, including two overtimes. With Team Liquid up 2-1, Fadeaway put up a massive game, managing to score five goals on twelve shots. This four-goal margin looked to put the series in Fadeaway's hands with all the momentum on their side.
However, it wouldn't be that simple. After Fadeaway's offence looked spectacular in Game 4, Game 5 saw the first three minutes pass by without a goal. It only got worse for Fadeaway from there, with Team Liquid finishing the game 4-1. It was a big win for Team Liquid who would go on to sweep Top Blokes. Their first match this weekend will be against WOO, and if Team Liquid can put together a solid run, they can skyrocket up the standings.
Images via Liquipedia | @RLEsports