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Can EU Defend its Crown at the Rocket League World Championship

RLCS World Championship

Alexandre “Kaydop” Courant’s Rocket League greatness can be hard to fully comprehend at times.

The Frenchman has won three of the last four World Championships. Of the seven World Championships in the game’s history he’s appeared in five Grand Finals. Since Season 3 he’s played in every single Grand Final at a World Championship. No other player has appeared in more than three.

Kaydop has appeared in every EU Regional Championship final since Season 2. Six seasons later he heads into another World Championship, but with the talent pool ever expanding, will he keep his Grand Final streak alive?

Renault Vitality have a chance to become the second team to ever win two World Championships this weekend, and Kaydop could pick up his fourth individual title.

On the other hand, Team Reciprocity won their first Regional Championship, and did so with an emphatic 4-0 sweep of Vitality. Thibault “Chausette45” Grzesiak has staked his claim for the best player in the world, and for the first time since Method’s original roster disbanded, EU brings a two headed monster into the World Championship.

Seasons past have seen Kaydop’s team arrive as EU’s clear best chance of silverware with everyone else in the region clearly a step behind them. Reciprocity have blurred that line, and either of them could easily bring the trophy home.

Not to mention Veloce Esports, who weren’t even supposed to be in the Championship this season; they look like a team on a mission, and Dignitas have shown some sparks, too.

There is a lot more experience coming from this region than NA, SAM or OCE. Only Jack “FlamE” Pearton and Maello “AztraL” Ernst will make their debuts this weekend in Madrid, compared to nine debutantes from NA, three from SAM and three from OCE.

This is an interesting region from top to bottom. Here’s a look at the contenders to keep the crown in Europe, ranked from least likely to win it all to most likely.

Contender #4: Dignitas

Regular Season record: 4-3, 14-14 (finished 5th), 3rd/4th at Regional Championship

Players: Jos “ViolentPanda” van Meurs, Maello “AztraL” Ernst, Maurice “Yukeo” Weihs

Stats (League Play): 1.68 GPG (6th in EU), 1.57 APG (2nd), 5.14 SAPG (4th), 1.57 GAPG (2nd)

Previous World Championship Experience: Panda has played in four World Championships. Yukeo debuted at the Season 6 World Championship. AztraL will make his debut.

How they stack up:

Dignitas pushed Reciprocity to a Game 7 overtime at the Regional Championship, and they’re heating up at the right time.

They had to get through FC Barcelona and mousesports to qualify, and it took 13 games, but they made it. That’s a tough gauntlet, and they should feel confident heading into the World Championship.

AztraL is the lifeblood of the team. He finished third in GPG at the Regional Championship, and has to shoulder the bulk of the scoring for this team.

RLCS World Championship
AztraL – Courtesy of Todd Gutierrez for DreamHack

Teams will key in on AztraL and try to pin Dignitas into defense, but they’re comfortable at the back, having the second best defense in the region this season.

Yukeo improved as the season went on, but can still feel under involved at times. He’s struggled with his shooting, but is a good defender who can pass a little bit as well.

No one is more consistent than ViolentPanda, and he’ll need to come up big in making clears and passes to free up AztraL.

Their lack of consistency during League Play is troubling, and their offense looked lethargic at times this season.

They can contend with anyone. They rarely over-commit, don’t make many mistouches and have a mechanical god who can make something out of nothing. That sets up pretty nicely for a Cinderella run.

Dignitas might dip out early though. The final Day 3 spot from their group will likely come down to a series between them and Spacestation Gaming, and given how much they can score, Dig might be in some trouble.

A Day 3 appearance feels like just the right ceiling for them, but one could argue leaving the door open for a semi-final appearance. Overall, their offense probably isn’t versatile enough for them to win the entire tournament.

Contender #3: Veloce Esports

Regular Season record: 5-2, 17-14 (finished 2nd), 3rd/4th at Regional Championship

Players: Jack “FlamE” Pearton, Andy “Kassio” Landais, Sandro “FreaKii” Holzwarth

Stats (League Play): 1.77 GPG (3rd in EU), 1.42 APG (6th), 5.94 SAPG (2nd), 1.74 GAPG (5th)

Previous World Championship Experience: FreaKii appeared at the Season 4 and 5 World Championships. Kassio debuted with Triple Trouble in Season 7. FlamE will play in his first World Championship this weekend.

How they stack up:

Veloce are one of the most solid Rocket League teams out there. They found their offense on punishing mistakes and keeping the ball moving, and it worked well in Season 8.

The team was promoted from the Rival Series after Triple Trouble disbanded and surrendered their spot. Many predicted them to struggle in their first season, but they completely surpassed expectations and made top two during League Play.

In his first RLCS season since Season 5, FreaKii finished second in MVP voting. He led the league in SAPG and finished 5th in GPG. He connects sweetly with the ball and can surprise opponents with quick flashes of mechanical brilliance.

RLCS World Championship
FlamE – Courtesy of @ZeeboDesigns on Twitter

FlamE can be an absolute pest on offense. He’s so smart in his decisions to cut rotation, bring the ball down for a dribble or to leak ahead for a demo. He can completely take over games, but sometimes it doesn’t all show up on the stat sheet.

Then Kassio can do a little bit of everything. His ability to slow the game down in their own half is what allows FlamE to spend so much time in the opponent’s half.

If anyone is off their game, Veloce will beat them. No one has been more consistent in punishing mistouches or poor positioning than Veloce in Season 8.

They likely won’t beat themselves, but could get overwhelmed by lightning quick teams like Spacestation Gaming or Renault Vitality. Every series they play in will be close, it’ll just be a question of winning the clinchers.

Third place in a very competitive Group A would be quite an accomplishment, and they’re well-equipped enough to do it. Making the Grand Final seems like it’s out of the cards, but Veloce have punched above their weight before. Top six is likely their ceiling.

Contender #2: Team Reciprocity

Regular Season record: 5-2, 17-11 (finished 1st), Won Regional Championship

Players: Emil “Fruity” Moselund, Thibault “Chausette45” Grzesiak, Victor “Ferra” Francal

Stats (League Play): 1.61 GPG (7th in EU), 1.25 APG (7th), 4.SA89 PG (6th), 1.39 GAPG (1st)

Previous World Championship Experience: Ferra has played in four World Championships. Chausette45 has appeared in three. Fruity has appeared at the last two.

How they stack up:

If Complexity hadn’t put together one of the worst offensive seasons in Rocket League history, Reciprocity could have very well finished dead last in GPG. Their offensive stats look like eUnited’s. Somehow that actually isn’t very concerning.

Reciprocity play a slower, more conservative style, and it worked. When you have a player like Chausette45, sometimes it’s best to just stay out of his way and let him go to work.

He’s the best player with the ball in space in the world right now, and any team that gives him enough time to get the ball on his roof will suffer the consequences.

When Chausette’s at his best, he’s unstoppable. NRG couldn’t do anything to him when he debuted the Fennec at DreamHack: Valencia.

RLCS World Championship
Fruity – Courtesy of Matt Ninaber of Team Reciprocity

So, they just need to be patient, play good defense and let him make something happen. They saved 77.84% of the shots they saw this season, the best percentage in the region.

Ferra can finish nearly any pass that comes his way and also has a flair for the moment. He’s an experienced vet at this point and will be extra hungry for the crown.

Fruity is one of the most interesting players in the world. He didn’t finish in the top five of any statistical category this season, but can tear teams apart with his boost steals and passing ability.

Their fate is heavily dependent on how Chausette is playing. They’re one of the three favorites to win it all, and anything short of the Grand Final will feel like a disappointment for them. They can’t just be happy to be there. Reciprocity need to take the crown home.

Contender #1: Renault Vitality

Regular Season record: 4-3, 16-13 (finished 3rd), 2nd at Regional Championship

Players: Alexandre “Kaydop” Courant, Kyle “Scrub Killa” Robertson, Victor “Fairy Peak!” Locquet

Stats (League Play): 1.76 GPG (T-4th in EU), 1.45 APG (5th), 6.14 SAPG (1st), 1.79 GAPG (6th)

Previous World Championship Experience: Kaydop has played at every World Championship since Season 2. Fairy Peak has played in four. Scrub Killa played in his first WC last season.

How they stack up:

How can a team that finished third in League Play and second at the Regional Championship be the region’s best chance of winning it all? Did you not read the first part of this article? They have Kaydop, they’re a shoe-in for the Grand Final.

Kaydop’s reign of terror has to end eventually, and he did finish ninth in GPG after leading the region in scoring each of the last three seasons. That probably won’t matter though.

For as great as Kaydop is, Scrub Killa is their most important player. He is nearly unmatched mechanically, and his ability to score and defend in 1v1 situations is very special.

Their defensive woes are definitely concerning, but Mike “Gregan” Ellis has surely been working with them to try and eliminate double commits.

RLCS World Championship
Srcub Killa – Courtesy of Todd Gutierrez for DreamHack

No team can bank on consistent kickoff pressure as much as Vitality, and that won them the Grand Final against G2 last season.

They can also bring the ball down and have Fairy Peak or Scrub try to create something off the dribble, given that they’re the two best 1v1 players of all time.

Until Kaydop misses a World Championship Grand Final, his team should be the favorite to win every match they play in at LAN. NRG and Reciprocity present a real challenge for them, but they truly can beat anyone, and they don’t really need to pop-off or anything to do it.

Vitality vs. NRG might be the most likely final, especially if Chausette can’t find a rhythm. There’s plenty of room for upsets, but Vitality have a pretty good chance of repeating as World Champions.

The Rocket League Championship Series World Championship begins Friday, Dec. 13 at 1 P.M. EST on twitch.tv/rocketleague.

 

Featured image courtesy of Psyonix.

Follow me on Twitter: @connorssanders.

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