Five teams that surprised us at VALORANT Champions 2022

VALORANT Champions is over, and as with all major international events, there were some unexpected performances. The Brazilian champions LOUD are themselves an unexpected result, as they weren't among the favourites and still managed to win the championship without losing a series in the playoffs.

We've selected five of these stories, including the ones that failed to impress us despite high expectations before the tournament. Let's take a look at them to relive the Champions 2022 action and the level of competition in Istanbul before we move on to the excitement of the VCT 2023.

LOUD

Image via Riot Games

The Brazilian team LOUD entered the tournament as one of the underdogs: we knew from the time of Reykjavík that the team was dangerous, but after Copenhagen they weren't one of the tier 1 teams fighting for the championship. After they were defeated by OpTic Gaming in the group final, the hype around them was even lower.

Nevertheless, LOUD made it to the playoffs after taking down ZETA DIVISION. Following that, the dream had come true for LOUD. Until they met OpTic in the grand final, they didn't lose a single map, pulled amazing comebacks and ended up winning the first international trophy for Brazil. They built a strong squad in 2022, believed in their team and it paid off in the end.

Paper Rex

Image via Riot Games

Copenhagen finalists Paper Rex were among the favourites before the tournament began in Istanbul, but their group draw was anything but lucky. Even EDward Gaming looked dangerous as they made it to Champions without losing a map in the Asian qualifiers. Still, many VALORANT esports fans believed Paper Rex could hold their own against Leviatán and Team Liquid.

However, Leviatán performed much better than their time in Copenhagen and qualified for the playoffs with two 2-0 wins, leaving only one spot for Paper Rex and Team Liquid. Paper Rex were outclassed by Team Liquid in the Group A decider and were eliminated early. Most disappointingly, fans were unable to attend any of Paper Rex's matches as the doors weren't open before the playoffs.

Fnatic

After their strong performance in the EMEA Challengers Stage 2, Fnatic became the favourites of many European fans. With Alfajer and Derke, the team's firepower went through the roof. Although they were expected to dominate Copenhagen with FPX, their run ended early and when they started with a loss against 100 Thieves in Champions, fans were shocked again.

Fnatic managed to stay alive by beating 100 Thieves to make it to the playoffs, but this time XSET defeated them in the quarter-finals. For FNC, it was like Copenhagen: they tried to make a lower bracket run but were eliminated early by DRX. Fnatic's squad still has the potential to dominate EMEA and international events, but Champions 2022 was a disappointment for them.

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Leviatán

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The story of Leviatán is one of the most interesting from Istanbul. Although most analysts and fans were impressed by their performance in Copenhagen, it was still a disappointment as their run ended very early. Therefore, we didn't expect them to last in a group against Paper Rex and Team Liquid. Leviatán beat both 2-0 to grab one of the spots and have a comfortable run into the playoffs.

The difference between group and playoffs was like night and day for Leviatán. When LOUD managed to overcome a 12-6 deficit in the first map, Leviatán lost the series mentally and FPX finished them in the lower bracket. In short, Leviatán became one of the fan favourites and was very quickly kicked out of Istanbul afterwards.

XSET

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XSET's story is similar to Leviatán's, but considering that they were the second best team from North America, we can safely say that XSET impressed everyone with their success in Istanbul. After beating XERXIA, FunPlus Phoenix was expected to be the first team to enter the playoffs. XSET had other ideas. BcJ played amazingly well and gave XSET a 2-1 win and a place in the playoffs.

XSET's first opponent in the playoffs was Fnatic, another strong EMEA representative. Although Fnatic finished second in their group, they were considered favourites against XSET, and once again everyone was wrong about them. XSET quickly defeated Fnatic 2-0 and made it to the semi-finals, where they fought honourably against OpTic, losing 2-1.

FPX returned the favour in the lower bracket against XSET in a controversial series that saw one map being replayed. FPX ended up winning 2-1, but XSET's Champions 2022 run was still an amazing one.