However, the Play-Ins also left us with a big upset, as LJL’s DetonatioN FocusMe managed to overcome every challenge in Group B, securing first place after a hard-fought match against Cloud9, and becoming the first-ever entry for a Japanese team into the main stage.
As we look forward to their biggest challenge to date, DFM’s mid laner Lee “Aria” Ga-eul took some time after his Groups debut against T1 to talk about their experiences during this journey in Iceland, his path to Worlds, and the team’s reflections on their performances.
So, first up - congratulations on making it to Groups! What does it mean to be part of the first LJL team to advance? And not only that but by coming first in your group?
Advancing to the Group Stage was possibly the biggest dream for me, and the entire LJL was super excited about it. We never thought we could make it as the first seed, but when we actually got the chance after defeating Cloud9, we were super hyped.
Did you expect to get a tiebreaker against Cloud9?
Yes, we actually did.
How were you and the team feeling coming into the Play-Ins final day? Were you confident in your preparation?
We were very confident since the start of the Play-Ins, and at the end, we knew we could get out of them and jump over into the Group Stage.
Obviously, your first day wasn’t the best start, as T1 took you down pretty hard. How did you feel coming into the match, and what did the team take away from the loss?
Before heading into the game, we were more focused on what we could do after the match, since we will be facing 100 Thieves tomorrow, so we wanted to keep some of our plans for later.
About the game against T1, I don’t think there is much to take away or think about, just that we were a little bit clustered and stomped at the end, but we have to move on and continue practising.
What are your expectations for the rest of Worlds? Do you think you can get revenge on T1 in your second duel?
So based on what they showcased today, we can’t be really sure about getting our revenge from T1. Nonetheless, we will give our best in our remaining matches and look forward to that.
Your journey to Worlds has been something of a crazy one. Back when you joined DFM, the team had to play with Kazu instead of Gaeng for half the season while waiting for Steal to get Japanese residency. How did you find the decision to move from Crest Gaming Act to DetonatioN?
I think it was both easy and tough since both teams had some history before Worlds, after their battle in the 2020 Summer semifinals.
Having to move from CGA to DFM was a little tricky after the outcome of the results, and the whole movement around the players just made it something even more unexpected.
So in general, I can say my path to Worlds was pretty rough.
Earlier last week you considered yourself the best mid laner from your Play-Ins group, something you backed up pretty well. Now you’re in Groups, how do you think you measure up against the other mid laners there?
Now that I’m in the Group Stage, I think I’m ranked the lowest because I believe every player here is so good, and they are so strong, it’s just a massive difference in skill, so I have a lot of things to learn from them.
Did you have any teams you wanted to face off in Groups?
Both DWG KIA and T1 were the teams I wanted to fight against the most, and also any of the LPL [teams].
Finally, do you want to share any words with your fans and LJL followers around the world?
We know today we kind of had a crushing defeat against T1, as they were one of the strongest opponents we had faced ever.
We made a lot of mistakes, so we will do our best in order to prepare for everything and come back with a great performance.
DetonatioN FocusMe’s Worlds run will continue tomorrow with their first match against LCS champions, 100 Thieves, with more matches to come against LCK’s third seed T1 and MSI champions, RNG.
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Featured image courtesy of Riot Games and Getty Images.