Western Europe entered The International 2023 as the region with the most teams considered contenders, but the narrative has now flipped to its Eastern neighbors. With Team Spirit’s dominant performance and both BetBoom Team and Virtus.pro surviving the playoffs, TI12 has become a historic stage for CIS squads.
While Eastern Europe has crowned two TI champions in the past, representation for the region at the highest level has never been huge. But this year, not only is Team Spirit the current favorite to lift the Aegis of Champions, but it’s also the first time the region has had three teams competing in a TI top eight at the same time.
Prior to this year, EEU never had more than two teams from the region make it into the top eight of the same TI. The highest mark was TI7, where VP and Team Empire both lost to eventual champions Team Liquid in subsequent rounds.
Spirit has only dropped a single game throughout the entire event, running through the group stage with a perfect 8-0 record before sweeping Shopify Rebellion in the seeding round and going 2-1 against VP in the playoff opener. BetBoom and VP both had to play elimination matches to make it into the top eight, however.
BetBoom started in the lower bracket and overcame their narrative of being worse on LAN by eliminating two regions from TI entirely with a sweep of Keyd Stars and a 2-1 win over Talon Esports, the final teams from South America and Southeast Asia respectively.
As for VP, they dropped down after a loss to Spirit in the upper bracket and swept Entity, who previously eliminated reigning TI champions Tundra Esports. This continues their underdog run through TI12 after entering the event through regional qualifiers.
According to VP captain fng, part of the reason EEU feels so strong this TI is that Spirit has been a top team most of the year and provided the other rosters a chance to play against high-level players constantly within the region.
“This is definitely one of the strongest years for our region, and why is that? It is probably Team Spirit,” fng said in a post-game interview. “When you have a strong team in your region, it usually means you get to play some official games [against them] before [TI]. Not only that, you also have someone to look at and can speak to them.”
BetBoom and VP will face off in the third round of the lower bracket when TI12 kicks off its main event from Climate Pledge Arena on Oct. 27. Likewise, Spirit will play Liquid in the upper bracket semifinals to see who takes the next step toward claiming the Aegis.