SEOUL, South Korea -- It was not too long ago when the cries for an extra seed at the League of Legends World Championship rang loudly from the passionate fans of Brazil following the region's upward trend. Those cries came after a stunning upset of Europe's top-seeded Alliance in 2014, and then Pain Gaming established itself as the best non-power region team in history the next year by taking a pair of games in its group and giving its Goliath-sized competitors a run for their money.
Now, only a few years removed from Pain's rise to fame, Brazil's KaBuM! e-Sports sits at an unexpected 0-2 going into its final day of play-in groups, and Brazil's biggest regional rival in League of Legends, Turkey, once again sits in a position to advance after Turkish champion Bahçeşehir SuperMassive upset the favored EU LCS representative, G2 Esports, in a one-sided contest before running through Thailand's Ascension Gaming to end Tuesday with an unbeaten record.
"We're extremely happy about our Day 1 performance," SuperMassive's starting top laner Asım Cihat "fabFabulous" Karakaya told ESPN following his team's victory over Ascension on Tuesday night. "We expected to win against G2, but not that cleanly. After winning against them so cleanly, we felt really confident that we could get out of our [play-in] group as No. 1 seed. We just feel good."
In the ongoing rivalry between Turkey and Brazil that has gone back and forth since the two regions separated themselves from the pack as the strongest non-power regions (before Vietnam's recent emergence over the past two years), it has always been Brazil with the higher highs and lower lows, while Turkey's performance has been consistently above average. SuperMassive, the region's dynastic organization, has found itself qualifying for Mid-Season Invitationals and going far in worlds qualifiers, but this is the first year where the organization finally made it onto the big stage.
G2 Esports, meanwhile, might have caught the best Turkish side in the region's storied history. Maybe for once, it'll be Turkey which peaks at the right time, instead of the flashy Brazilians.
"I think [G2's] top-jungle-mid is extremely strong [and] one of the best in Europe, if not the best," Karakaya said. "So we were kinda scared. Not scared ... we did not fear them, but we respect them a lot. We fear no one, actually. Every team here came as a champion [of their region] so we respect them. We didn't want G2 in our group, but we worked hard for this, so we knew we could win. We're relieved we could win."
While G2's topside of the map, as mentioned by fabFabulous, might be heralded as a trio of homegrown superstars, the team's weak point is not the toughest to spot. Following an inconsistent year that saw them try to fill the shoes of the best Western bottom lane duo in 2017, which brought endless championships to the G2 organization, Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen and Alfonso "mithy" Aguirre, Hjarnan" Freyschuss and Kim "Wadid" Bae-in didn't have what you would call the best start to the biggest tournament of the year.
"We didn't think we could exploit [Hjarnan and Wadid] directly, but we thought that their bottom lane was weaker than their other lanes. We just tried to play our game, and we won," Karakaya said.
After one of the worlds teams from a power region like Europe falls to a "minnow" region, you expect fanfare. When you open up an interview with a player from the underdog team, surprise, shock and wonder are supposed to follow. There was nothing of the sort with SuperMassive's stalwart top laner. There was no surprise. There were no tears. SuperMassive, the giant of a region which continually adds top South Korean players and sees new sponsors enter the season with each split, doesn't see itself as a wild card any longer.
In a stage built for the strong teams to eat the weak, SuperMassive is doing just that. It's just different this time around -- SuperMassive sees itself as the shark, and G2, the team coming from a major region, the EU LCS, as the lowly prey.
"[Turkey] has so much ambition to win," Karakaya said. "They should be scared of us. We will do anything to win. We'll work hard to win. They should be scared of us, I think. We're good enough. We can beat any team, I think. If it's us on a good day, we can win against any [other] good team."