BUSAN, South Korea -- In League of Legends, there are five major regions: South Korea, China, North America, Europe, and Taiwan/Hong Kong/Macao. At the 2018 League of Legends World Championship, 15 of the 16 group stage teams are from those five regions.
The one outlier?
Meet the Phong Vũ Buffalo.
Out of Vietnam, the Buffalo entered the event as the tournament's most mysterious team. Throughout the play-in stage, rumors of the Buffalo running wild in scrimmages against the top teams were everywhere. Some said they were doing well against the LCS teams. Others, more outlandish, were even saying they were defeating top South Korean teams and could fight for the title.
Phong Vu's mid laner, Võ "Naul" Thành Luân, put a stop to that.
"We've definitely had good results in scrims," Naul said to ESPN following the team's final game of the first half of the group stage versus South Korea's Afreeca Freecs. "But the rumor that we beat South Korean [teams] or Chinese [teams] is untrue."
For the Buffalo, they're in a strange position at this year's worlds. Right now, the Vietnam region is in the middle of growing pains. Besides maybe China, there is no other region right now thriving as much as Vietnam in the ongoing popularity of League of Legends, but the player base still isn't there. Along with that, Vietnam has been getting better and better each year as a region, but is still a little behind the major ones when it comes to consistent results and infrastructure.
So, for the time being, Vietnam sits in some sort of limbo. Too big to be considered a wildcard or minnow region needing to play through qualifiers to make it to worlds, but not big enough to be seen as an equal in terms of depth like the Chinas and South Koreas of the League of Legends world.
Naul, though, believes the top teams in Vietnam can match some of the best in the major regions.
"I think the top of [Vietnam] can go head-to-head with the top of NA and EU LCS," he said. "For a second spot for Vietnam at worlds, I think we, the Buffalo, have to get out of our group. If we do, only then do we deserve a second spot."
While the final day of Group A won't be easy for the 1-2 Buffalo, who might need to win all three of their remaining games to get into the quarterfinals, Naul and the team are confident they can make a miracle happen. With Afreeca also at 1-2 along with G2 Esports of Europe and Flash Wolves of the LMS both at 2-1, each team in the group has shown it can be beat. For the Buffalo, who come from a region known for mechanical skill and fast play, they want to be the ones who control the pace in their final set of games.
"Despite our losses, we've learned a lot," Naul said. "I'm highly confident we will do very well in the second leg and get out of groups."