MADRID -- We've arrived at the semifinals of the 2019 League of Legends World Championship, and there's some good news and some bad news.
The good news? I went three out of four for my bets last week, even netting the upset of Invictus Gaming toppling Griffin.
The bad news? The one game I was most sure about, Fnatic vs. FunPlus Phoenix, in which I had Fnatic running away with it, was the match where I was wrong. FunPlus got their comfort picks, Fnatic didn't play as well as they did to end the group stages; not even a raucous crowd could propel the European favorites to victory.
The tournament isn't over though, so I have time to redeem myself for my Fnatic folly. Here are the best (and worst) bets for the upcoming final four and a special extra tip for who you should take as your finals MVP selection.
Invictus Gaming (1.61) vs. FunPlus Phoenix (2.20)
These semifinals couldn't be any closer. On the surface, iG, one of my favorite bets throughout the tournament, should be the safe choice here. When comparing the teams pound for pound in terms of talent, especially in the solo lane positions, this is a no-brainer. They're more experienced, more talented, and after knocking out a difficult Griffin squad, seem to be rounding into the form that took them all the way to the world title last year.
The only issue? This is a domestic showdown. FunPlus knows how iG plays, and they've given them fits in their home region of China. While iG is surely the better team when it comes to talent, FunPlus have the advantage when it actually comes to playing together as a team. In a world where iG stopped playing as five individuals and developed actual chemistry, this tournament would already be over and we'd be awarding the trophy to the reigning champs. That's not the case, though, as even with a world title in their back pocket, Invictus still finds themselves as a group of individuals that are at their best when one or two players are playing the role of hero as the others try to keep up with them.
My gut is telling me to stick with Invictus. Throughout worlds, I've preached to always take the team with more experience and the best player on the field who can take over when needed. It's clear iG have by far more international experience, and I don't think there is any player on the planet playing at a higher level in League of Legends at this moment than iG's Kang "TheShy" Seung-lok. I don't see a sweep in the cards, but I think iG take this in four or five games.
SK Telecom T1 (1.53) vs. G2 Esports (2.37)
This is more than likely going to shatter all viewership records when it comes to esports in the West. T1 is a supergiant, the three-time world champion and a franchise known all around the world for its pedigree alongside its leader Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok. G2 might just be the best Western team we've ever seen in League of Legends and are attempting to complete the 2019 grand slam by adding the Summoner's Cup to its Mid-Season Invitational trophy and pair of domestic titles. These two teams played at that very same MSI competition, and G2, obviously, came out the victor there in a nail-biting five-game classic.
So what about now?
First off, this should be a 50/50, down the line call. Outside of T1 and the ROX Tigers at the 2016 League of Legends World Championship, I don't remember a semifinal that was so close in skill, experience and form. Both teams have looked at times like the best team in the world at this competition, and yet, have also had games where they look beatable under the right circumstances. They've both dropped games to two teams each this tournament, and in the quarterfinals, it was a similar story, with the pair both winning their first-round bracket stage matches by a scoreline of 3-1.
As an outright prediction, I like T1. With these odds, though, and how close this series should be, I would say go with G2 if you are leaning towards the European champions in the slightest.
Finals MVP (Best bets)
TheShy, iG (7.00)
He's the best player in the tournament as I'm writing this, and with iG being the team I feel most confident about in the semifinals, this is the safest bet I can give. The narrative behind his strength has ramped up throughout the tournament, and there's a good chance if iG win the final he will be a prime candidate to receive the honor.
Khan, SKT (26.00)
I love Kim "Khan" Dong-ha at these odds. Think about it logically: Khan has been playing at a world-class level throughout the tournament, and if they do play iG in the final, he is going to be one of the highlighted matchups against TheShy. For SKT to win that final, Khan is probably going to have to come up big, and at these long odds, it's not too difficult to find a path where Khan ends up as finals MVP.
Crisp, FPX (81.00)
This is my long-shot special. FunPlus has the worst odds to win the world title, but if they do, then why can't Liu "Crisp" Qing-Song win MVP? He already has been given respect as one of the best supports in the world, and although it's difficult for a support to win any individual accolades due to the normal duties of their job, it's not impossible for Crisp to win the award. I wouldn't be putting my entire savings on Crisp to win finals MVP, but it's doable under the right circumstances.