Oceania’s champions and representatives at the Mid-Season Invitational have been dealt a cruel blow ahead of the first mouse even being clicked.
According to public opinion, the Bombers have flown straight into their first international event and landed in the tournament’s group of death. As well as dominant Turkish team 1907 Fenerbahçe Esports, and Argentinean representatives Isurus Gaming, the Bombers will face off against the host nation’s champions.
Phong Vũ Buffalo are many pundits favourites to escape from the first Play-In group and head into the best of five series. After scoring a 2-4 record in the 2018 World Championship main stage against teams like Afreeca Freecs, G2 Esports, and Flash Wolves, the Vietnamese champions have become a household name in the world of League of Legends esports.
This difficult group had many taking to social media to condemn Bombers’ chances. Colour commentator and draw-host Indiana “Froskurinn” Black made a point of apologising to Oceania for the draw they had been whacked with earlier this week. The /r/LeagueofLegends forum discussion thread even had “Rip OPL” as the top comment.
It seems, for all intents and purposes, that Bombers have been written off in their first international tournament before the first champion has even been locked in. So what does the Essendon squad think about public opinion?
“I don’t think anyone gave a shit about those comments,” head coach Scott “Westonway” Farmer said after the group stage draw had been completed.
“It’s honestly a bit disappointing seeing all these people that were supposed to be on our side writing us off, and saying things like ‘You won’t get out of that group’ on social media, because at the end of the day we have to beat these teams at some point if we want to progress.” Scott ‘Westonway’ Farmer
“We one hundred percent know it’s a group of death, of course, it is, but we have to do it anyway if we want to achieve anything. Then, if we do get out of this tough group, all the other teams are dead. If you beat them, all the hard teams are gone.”
Mere hours after the group draw had been revealed, breakout jungler Hyun-jin “BalKhan” Choi took to social media to berate the OPL’s fans. In his eyes, the region giving up on them after the draw was a confidence-shattering move, and one he just couldn’t afford.
“I don’t know why everyone’s already giving up,” he tweeted. “It looks like they’re cutting the team down. I joined the super team as an untested player, and it’s been the best season. I don’t want to lose my confidence now.
“I can’t say we’re the best, but I promise you we’ll make the best of our best efforts.”
The ‘best efforts, no matter what’ mentality seems to be a thread running through the Bombers’ preparations – Westonway echoed the sentiment as he explained the team’s pre-tournament feelings.
“We’re all here to do our absolute best, no matter what the circumstances are we’re going into our games confident, and to see where we can go,” he said.
“The whole team wants to stick with what we’ve had success within the Oceanic Pro League, and they’re all a great unit. We want to play our own game, and ensure we can get a region-best finish for everyone.
“At the end of the day, Oceania has a really poor track record internationally. We want to change that idea, and get Oceania out of the group stage. That’s all we can promise, that we’re going to try our absolute best to achieve that.”
The Bombers first match is against tournament hosts Phong Vũ Buffalo. Their best of one clash will be played on Wednesday, May 1. After the opening ceremony, the Oceania versus Vietnam battle will begin at 8pm AEST.
Bombers play Fenerbahçe at 11pm that same night and then have a game immediately after at midnight against Isurus Gaming. Their reverse fixture matches will be played two days later, on Friday, May 3.