The fact that the reigning world champion DAMWON Gaming was an underdog for many Western fans before the Worlds has to do with the recent past of the Koreans. While until a few years ago the strong LCK teams around their superstars like Faker or Crown were on the list before every international tournament, Chinese teams or G2 Esports were the big favorites for the World Cup in this year.
DAMWON Gaming only reached promotion to the LCK two years ago. Before, the Challenger scene did not challenge the young team and many fans were excited to see whether DAMWON would be able to keep up even after being promoted to the top division. Expectations were high, because the Koreans were a welcome opponent of the participants in the run-up to Worlds 2018 and, for example, publicly praised by Rekkles.
The fact that the Koreans were able to qualify for the Worlds in 2019 shows how successful the LCK's debut season was. DAMWON finished the group stage as the winner and even left the reigning world champion Invictus Gaming behind. In the quarterfinals, however, G2 Esports threw the Koreans out of the tournament.
After a weak Spring Split 2020, the young team increased considerably after the summer break. DAMWON rushed from win to win and ended the regular season with a record of 16-2 wins. After the playoffs could be won relatively confidently, in Korea the young team was considered the top favorite for the world title. In other regions, these statements were initially smiled at.
In the group stage of the Worlds, DAMWON finally rolled over all competitors. The Chinese team JD Gaming managed to add a defeat to the Koreans, but at this point the LCK representative was already the group winner. The quarter-finals against DRX were more of a walk than hard work - the Korean rival was dealt with 3-0.
In the semifinals the possible revenge against Europe's flagship team G2 Esports was up. Finally, the winner of the LEC managed to eliminate DAMWON in the quarter-finals of the Worlds 2019. This time the Koreans were clearly the better team: DAMWON reached the grand final with 3-1.
The final had to be played against an underdog, who caused a sensation in advance: LPL representative Suning just left G2 behind in the group phase and eliminated the two Chinese tournament favorites JG Gaming and Top Esports in the knockout rounds. Suning was able to give DAMWON a hot fight, but in the end the Koreans deservedly prevailed this time too.
Within just two years, DAMWON Gaming rose from the Korean challenger scene to world champion and lifted the proud LCK back to the throne. And in the coming year, fans all over the world should consider to mention the young Koreans when it comes to the tournament favorites for the Worlds 2021.
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