Coming close isn't enough
Team Liquid started its TI11 campaign by winning the TI11 Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ) after being knocked down to the lower bracket, and they performed admirably well with Ludwig “Zai” Wåhlberg playing a very important role — holding the fort on the frontlines on the offlane role.
Zai, along with Team Liquid, carried forward the hot momentum from the LCQ to the group stage at The International 2022 (TI11) and finished in second place in their group.
He played a pivotal role in Team Liquid’s show of strength during the group stage as well, and will now assume the responsibility of further steering the ship in the upper bracket of the TI11 Main Event (Playoffs).
Zai was kind enough to sit down with Jaxon for an interview before Team Liquid begins its journey in the upper bracket of the TI11 Playoffs where they are set to face the Chinese powerhouse, Team Aster.
Zai interview on why Team Liquid is playing so well at TI11
Jaxon: Did you feel like it was over when Team Liquid dropped down to the lower bracket and had to take the long road to qualify for TI11 through the LCQ at any point in time? What kept you all going?
Zai: Arlington was definitely a disappointment, I thought we had a good shot at winning the bo3 against BOOM but kind of messed up and in my opinion mostly lost to ourselves. We knew the regionals were going to be difficult and weren’t surprised with Entity taking it all, so we had to settle with LCQ.
I’d like to think that the long road helped us bond along the way and we’ve progressed a lot in this period as a team, so from a motivational standpoint, it has helped us more than taking any other road to get here.
Jaxon: Did you expect to fare this well in the group stage? Secondly, your only loss came against PSG.LGD whereas you won against EG, the #1 seed, in a clean 2-0 victory. What difference did you notice playing against both the teams that ended up in your favour and vice versa?
Zai: As I mentioned, playing the LCQ has helped us grow a lot as a team, so coming into the groups we were feeling really good and ready to play, I think the same applies to Secret. I had high hopes but second in the group and securing upper was probably a little bit better than I expected.
We had a good shot at winning against LGD in both games, but failed to close them out properly and gave up too many opportunities for their comebacks. They’re a great team and if you make too many mistakes you’ll get punished, and that’s kind of what happened.
Versus Evil Geniuses, I think Arteezy kinda threw game 1 and then we had a nice game 2 so pretty content with those two games overall. But regardless of our series, I think they look good and I’m happy to see them perform well.
Jaxon: Let’s talk about the series against OG: that was a lengthy pause, enough to derail or invigorate any kind of momentum. At one point, OG was ahead by approximately 16k gold and exp. lead, when the disconnect happens. While it’s nobody’s fault, do you believe y’all had lost the game or had any hopes of making a comeback?
Zai: I believe we were starting to mount a comeback before the pause in my obviously biased opinion, but the pause definitely removed any momentum and context in the game. Overall it probably benefited us more than them.
Jaxon: Speaking of which, do you also believe that the pause allowed Team Liquid to recoup their focus, and after winning game one, set y’all up psychologically to do better to seal the series? Please explain your thoughts.
Zai: I think the focus was at an all-time low when the game resumed after we had spent approximately 1.5 hours staring at our screens.
We weren’t able to tab out or use phones or anything like that so I think we were all dying of boredom, not too much time was spent focusing on the game because we didn’t have an ETA on when the pause would be resolved.
I can’t comment on the enemy team’s psychological state but we were happy to win game one and felt good going into game two.
Jaxon: Team Liquid’s next opponent is Team Aster in the TI11 Upper Bracket round one. What are your thoughts going into the series against a Chinese team? Being the #2 seed in Group A, what were the criteria to select Team Aster as your opponent?
Zai: Being second we didn’t get to choose our opponent, instead since EG chose TA and we got left with Team Aster.
Chinese or not doesn’t really matter to me, they’re a good team with strong individual players and solid strategies plus they’ve performed well throughout the season.
With that said we feel good about ourselves and are working hard so with the momentum of LCQ and our group stage performance, we feel confident going up against them.
Jaxon: My bad.. Lastly, how hungry are you for the Aegis, considering last time you came really close, and with TI11 probably being Matumbaman’s last as a pro?
Zai: Realistically it’s the only reason why I’m still playing, coming close is not good enough so I’ll, of course, give it my all. We have less than two weeks worth of Lasse [Matumbaman] playing Dota, so we’re all trying to make sure that we get as far as possible within that time. Both for his sake and also for our teammates, our organisation and our fans.