The final leg of The International 10 (TI10) regional qualifiers in Europe and China is about to begin. While almost all of the top Chinese teams have already received direct invites, two former TI champions from Europe are still fighting for the chance just to make it to TI10.
All eyes are now on OG, the back-to-back champions of TI8 and TI9, and Team Nigma, the champions of TI7 and the other finalist of TI9 (then playing under Team Liquid). Only one of these former TI champions can possibly claim the chance to even compete for another Aegis of Champions.
However, let's not forget that there are 12 other teams in the qualifier aside from OG and Nigma. Can squads like the current Team Liquid, Tundra Esports, and Vikin.gg play spoiler and take Europe's last spot in TI10 away from the former TI champions?
Read on to know about the five teams you should be watching out for in TI10's European qualifier:
OG, the only team to ever win the Aegis of Champions twice, are finally embarking on their campaign for a third-straight TI championship in TI10. However, they will have to start from the regional qualifiers and with a different team from the one they won two TI championships with.
Only Topias "Topson" Taavitsainen, Sébastien "Ceb" Debs, and Johan "N0tail" Sundstein remain from the lineup that won OG the championships of TI8 and TI9, as both Jesse "JerAx" Vainikka and Anathan "ana" Pham are now retired.
Martin "Saksa" Sazdov has proved to be a capable replacement for JerAx as the team's playmaker from the position 4 spot while Sumail "SumaiL" Hassan, who led Evil Geniuses to the championship of TI5 at just 16-years old, will be taking over ana's past role as the carry player.
OG struggled mightily throughout the entire 2021 Dota Pro Circuit (DPC), failing to qualify for both Majors. With that said, all past performances should be thrown out the window now. TI, and even its qualifiers, are an entirely different beast. Teams that were dominant in past seasons have crumbled under the pressure of the grandest stage in all of Dota.
However, OG have shown that not only can they withstand the pressure of playing in TI, they thrive in it. If there ever was a time for OG to finally get back to their TI-winning form, it will be now. Because of that, many still see them as the favourites to win the qualifier. Until they ultimately lose in the qualifier or fall during TI itself, you should never count the two-time TI champions out from the race for the Aegis of Champions.
Sumail "SumaiL" Hassan
Topias "Topson" Taavitsainen
Sébastien "Ceb" Debs
Martin "Saksa" Sazdov
Johan "N0tail" Sundstein
Amer "Miracle-" Al-Barkawi, Ivan "MinD_ControL" Ivanov, Maroun "GH" Merhej, and Kuro "Kuroky" Salehi Takhasomi won the Aegis of Champions in TI7 and were in the finals of TI9 under the banner of Team Liquid.
Team Nigma is now looking to return to the grandest stage in all of Dota at TI10 with newcomer carry player Igor "iLTW" Filatov.
It would not be too surprising to see Nigma make a deep run at TI10, if not outright win it all, should they qualify. After all, this is a team that has withstood the overwhelming pressure of playing in TI when they won the championship of TI7 all the way from the lower bracket.
Getting to TI10 might end up being the hardest part, however, as OG are standing in Nigma's way of qualifying for the tournament.
Both teams are likely to face off in a rematch of the TI9 grand finals just for the mere right to play in TI10. It's unfortunate that either one of OG or Nigma, maybe even both, will not even get a chance to fight for another Aegis of Champions and that Kuroky's insane streak of having competed in every TI thus far could potentially be broken.
With that said, it just raises the stakes in the qualifier even higher and makes that potential Nigma-OG matchup that much more exciting to witness. Hopefully, we can all get that dream match between OG and Nigma in the finals of the European qualifier so that we can get to see an incredible, high-stakes showdown between two TI champions even before TI10 begins.
Igor "iLTW" Filatov
Amer "Miracle-" Al-Barkawi
Ivan "MinD_ControL" Ivanov
Maroun "GH" Merhej
Kuro "Kuroky" Salehi Takhasomi
Team Liquid stands as the biggest dark horse of TI10's European qualifier, and not just because of the organisation's logo.
While Liquid have performed well during the DPC regional leagues and qualified for both Majors, they struggled mightily there. Will their struggles continue again when the stakes are this high?
Liquid's roster isn't lacking in either talent or chemistry, as they have been playing together since 2018 when they were still with Alliance. With that said, it's usually a matter of whether or not the metagame favours their unorthodox playstyle, which can get figured out over the course of an entire tournament — a huge factor in their struggles during the Majors.
Fortunately for Liquid, the qualifiers for TI10 are different. Instead of a marathon like in the Majors, the qualifiers are more like a sprint. Liquid's unorthodox playstyle and penchant for surprise picks will be their trump card in the qualifiers, allowing them to catch opponents off-guard who might not have enough time to think of an adequate response. If neither OG or Nigma were able to qualify for TI10, then it's a safe bet that it was Liquid that denied the finalists of TI9 a spot in TI10.
Michael "miCKe" Vu
Maximilian "qojqva" Bröcker
Samuel "Boxi" Svahn
Tommy "Taiga" Le
Aydin "iNSaNiA" Sarkohi
Tundra Esports, while far from being the best team in the qualifier, are a more than capable squad that has managed to stay in the cutthroat upper division of the European regional league for the past two seasons. While many doubt they can go all the way to TI10, Tundra is not a team that should be underestimated.
Over the past two seasons of the European regional league, Tundra has shown that they have what it takes to match up well against the likes of OG and Nigma. However, we haven't seen how Tundra perform in a high-stakes and pressure-filled environment like the qualifiers, as they have not managed to qualify for either of the Majors in this year's circuit.
The veterans in Tundra's roster — Neta "33" Shapira, Jingjun "Sneyking" Wu, and Adrian "Fata" Trinks — are all familiar with the rigors and pressure of both qualifying for and playing in TI.
However, the same cannot be said for Oliver "skiter" Lepko and Leon "Nine" Kirilin, the younger players on the squad. This will be the first time that Tundra as a team will be playing in a tournament that actually matters, whether they have what it takes to emerge victorious remains to be seen.
Oliver "skiter" Lepko
Leon "Nine" Kirilin
Neta "33" Shapira
Jingjun "Sneyking" Wu
Adrian "Fata" Trinks
The 2021 DPC has been quite the rollercoaster for Vikin.gg. They started Season 1 of the European regional league in the upper division but were knocked down to the lower division for Season 2, where they then won all their matches to be able to return to the upper division for the next circuit. Vikin.gg has been on an uptick since then, but can they go all the way up to the top and qualify for TI10?
Vikin.gg have notably done well against the two favourites to win the European qualifier, OG and Nigma. While Vikin.gg only managed two wins in Season 1 of the regional league, those two wins were over none other than OG and Nigma.
They will have to defeat those two squads again in order to qualify for TI10, though this time they will be facing both OG and Nigma squads that have nothing to lose.
While Vikin.gg are rightfully one of the underdogs of the European qualifier, it isn't impossible for them to cause a huge upset and deny the favorites a spot at TI10.
Indji “Shad” Lub
Miroslav “BOOM” Bičan
Maurice “KheZu” Gutmann
Adam “Aramis” Moroz
Melchior “Seleri” Hillenkamp
TI10's regional qualifiers for Europe and China will take place from 7 to 10 July. The two winners will be joining Fnatic from Southeast Asia, Team Spirit from Eastern Europe/the CIS, Undying from North America, and SG Esports from South America in the list of teams that earned their spot in TI10 through the regional qualifiers thus far.
Meanwhile, Evil Geniuses, PSG.LGD, Virtus.pro, Quincy Crew, T1, Vici Gaming, Team Secret, Team Aster, Alliance, Beastcoast, and Thunder Predator have already earned direct invites to the tournament.
Valve announced on Thursday (8 July) that the event would be moved from August to October and pulled out of Stockholm, Sweden, after it failed to get recognition as an 'elite sporting event'. TI10's Group Stage will now be held in Bucharest, Romania from 7 to 10 October followed by the Main Event from 12 to 17 October, where the 18 participating teams will be fighting to claim the coveted Aegis of Champions and the lion's share of a massive US$40 million prize pool.
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