After an intense VALORANT off-season, some of the top teams from the Americas and EMEA regions have gathered in Manchester to compete at the Red Bull Home Ground. In a competition that serves as a prelude to the 2023 VCT season between rival regions, expectations were flipped, with EMEA having a less-than-stellar performance while two North American rosters rose above the rest.
Fans were excited to see the newly-formed rosters compete, as this tournament is the first appearance for most of these teams and it was unclear how they would perform based on a few weeks of practice. Some of the biggest takeaways from the first day were an impressive undefeated performance from 100 Thieves, the comeback from Cloud9, Europe’s overall struggle, and KRU’s heartbreaking elimination.
100 Thieves turn heads
Out of all the teams competing at the Red Bull Home Ground, no one could have anticipated 100T would be the only team to go undefeated on the first day. The Thieves only made one change during the off-season, adding former XSET player Matthew “Cryocells” Panganiban. While other teams did massive roster revamps, 100T opted to keep their core four which has seemingly given them the advantage at this event. They were able to take down Team Heretics and Team Liquid 2-1 before sweeping FUT Esports at the end of the day to go 3-0 and secure their place in the semifinals.
Cloud9 “superteam” starts out slow
C9 did not have the strongest start to the tournament with an early loss to FOKUS, who were nearly eliminated later on by KRU Esports. The rocky three-map series showed some pain points for the team, as some of the usual top performers like Jaccob “yay” Whiteaker and Nathan “leaf” Orf struggled to make an impact on the map. C9 were quick to respond, however, and followed up the loss with back-to-back sweeps of both KRU Esports and Team Vitality to bring them to 2-1 overall, also securing themselves a semifinal spot.
Europe shows room for improvement
While all four European teams made it past the group stage, they will have to battle it out against each other in the quarterfinals which lowers the chances of any team from EMEA winning the tournament on home turf. Team Liquid, Heretics, and Vitality all showed promising performances overall, with critical round wins and no 0-2 losses. However, the lack of consistency seems to be an issue for the new rosters. They will have the chance to regroup on the second day and get ready to face the two NA teams that are standing one step away from a grand finals appearance.
KRU’s confusing qualification
In the final matches of the day, the bottom two teams from Group A, KRU and FOKUS, faced each other to determine which team would qualify and which would be sent home early. Both teams were 1-1 to start, leading many to believe that whoever won the head-to-head would make it through. KRU went on to sweep FOKUS 2-0 and posted a celebratory post to Twitter about getting to qualify. However, the Red Bull Home Ground officials opted to go based on the overall round and map count instead of matches. Despite winning 2-0, KRU was still three rounds behind FOKUS and a whole map behind as well, meaning that they were ultimately eliminated from the event. This decision was later reversed by tournament organizers a few hours before the matches were set to take place, meaning KRU would be the one to move forward and play against Team Liquid in the quarter-finals.