Top European competition has been hard to come by. North America has seen both the NSG x Complexity Invitational and the Nerd Street Gamers – Winter Championship since 2021 started, as well as a few competitions after First Strike but before the year was out. Asia had the DouYu Bie Zhuang Cup Winter. Europe, though, has seen little apart from Spanish broadcasts of the LVP Rising Series #1 – Main Event, and certainly not best-of-5 competition. Even last year, the region’s lack of solid tournament structures was a major talking point. But, just prior to the beginning of the VALORANT Champions Tour in the region, in came Red Bull. Their Home Ground tournament promised to be different – full best-of-5 competition between 8 of the absolute best teams in the region, with a slight twist: if a team won the first two maps of the series, they immediately moved on, without having to win a third. So how did top European competition shake out?
The first match of the event, between the new lineup of Ninjas in Pyjamas and one of the best teams from Turkey, Futbolist, was also the only quarterfinal to be played as a full best-of-5. It was Futbolist who came tearing out of the gate on Split, with İbrahim Temizel “mag0o” Temizel bossing the lobby around to put his team up 1-0.
The third quarterfinal was the closest on paper, as Team Liquid faced off against a Guild Esports lineup that had recently added Saif “Sayf” Jibraeel back to the roster. However, it didn’t turn out that way as Liquid won it in a relatively uneven 2-0.
Coming into the event, Liquid’s last appearance was at First Strike, where they fell in disastrous fashion to Team Heretics. However, against Guild, things worked out much better. ScreaM got serious backup fragging from Dom “soulcas” Sulcas, Adam “ec1s” Eccles played a purely supportive role, bringing out Viper for Icebox, and the team looked much more solid and coordinated than they had in the past. Guild, on the other hand, disappointed. After being named as possibly a favourite to win the event by analysts, they couldn’t stand up to Liquid’s improvement.
Finally, First Strike finalists SUMN FC played the most one-sided match of the quarterfinals, taking out Monkey business in convincing fashion. With 13-6 and 13-5 scorelines, it was clear that SUMN were the much better squad. Monkey business couldn’t get much going aside from some nice plays by Keven “TviQ” Lindström, with SUMN shutting them down everywhere they tried and generally out-aiming their opponents as well. It was a big, dominant victory for the primarily-British roster.
The first semifinal pitted a Ninjas in Pyjamas that already looked much improved from earlier versions against the ever-deadly G2. The series went for four maps, but in the end, G2 closed it out.
At the end of the match, a lot of discussion revolved around NiP. They had taken a match off G2, and looked pretty good doing it. With Ex6TenZ’ leadership and Yaroslav “Jady” Nikolaev‘s fragging ability, this may be the best NiP have ever been in VALORANT.
But improved though NiP were, they couldn’t defeat G2. The 6-time Ignition Series champions proved too strong, and would advance to the finals.
The next series was a thriller – a long, 5-map set between SUMN FC and Team Liquid. SUMN came out the gate with a dominant 13-5 on Bind, with James “Mistic” Orfila pulling out Viper for the map, but Liquid came right back with a 13-7 victory on Icebox, a map they’re quickly making their own. Haven was a nailbiter, with Team Liquid picking up a 9-3 lead at the half but SUMN bringing it all the way back to overtime, and then winning two rounds in a row to take it. However, it wasn’t to be for the resilient First Strike finalists, as Liquid would win Split 13-8 and Ascent 13-6 – the latter spearheaded by a 351 ACS performance from Adil “ScreaM” Benrlitom – to ultimately win the gruelling series 3-2. It was a true treat to watch, and the kind of format that has been missing from top European events.
Team Liquid brought us to Icebox first, the map they’d been so good on all event, and immediately G2 challenged them more than any team had. With both pyth and ec1s playing Viper, each team had plenty of utility to help open up both sites, and G2 took plenty of advantage. Two consecutive 6-6 halves sent things to overtime, where ScreaM clutched things out with a massive play on Jett knives. Liquid would win the next round as well to take Icebox 14-12.
Next up was Team Liquid’s Haven selection. The map was incredibly tight, with the two teams trading rounds back and forth. soulcas’ Skye also found great value for Liquid. The first half ended 6-6, and the second half was similarly tight, with Liquid managing to just edge out the win 13-11.
Bind, though, was not nearly as competitive. Ardis “ardiis” Svarenieks dropped 349 ACS and 1.96 rating playing Sova, and G2 absolutely rolled over Liquid. They won seven rounds in a row to start off the map, and didn’t allow Liquid to win a single round on their attack. At 13-3, it was a stomp, and G2 headed into the last map of Ascent with all the momentum.
Liquid managed to win the pistol and a few rounds afterwards, but G2 began to string more rounds together on their attack. The first half ended 6-6, with Travis “L1NK” Mendoza leading the scoreboards after some slick picks to help Liquid along. Liquid took the next pistol as well, but G2 quickly began evening things up. They were beginning to completely shut down Liquid, and aside from one round where soulcas and L1NK managed to stall things out, Oscar Cañellas “mixwell” Colocho and Aleksander “zeek” Zygmunt tore through their opponents. Some nice knife work by ScreaM made it close, but in the end, G2 would win it 13-10, and the match 3-2, to claim the victory at Red Bull Home Ground.
Final standings for Red Bull Home Ground:
1. G2 Esports – £10,000
2. Team Liquid – £5,000
3-4. Ninjas in Pyjamas – £2,500
3-4. SUMN FC – £2,500
5-8. Futbolist – £1,000
5-8. FrenzyGoKill – £1,000
5-8. Guild Esports – £1,000
5-8. Monkey business – £1,000