PARIS -- Just like that, it was all over.
The fans filtered out of the sold-out stands at the AccorHotels Arena with shellshocked expressions, flabbergasted at what they had witnessed. Sunday was supposed to be a coronation for the European fans, as their domestic champion, G2 Esports, was one match away from becoming the first European team to hoist the Summoner's Cup.
Hours before the doors to the League of Legends World Championship final venue opened to the public, fans began lining up around the arena in the rain, chants of "Let's go G2!" sporadically catching on. Many in the crowd saw the first-ever Grand Slam -- two domestic split titles, a Mid-Season Invitational title and a worlds title -- as an achievable dream.
In lieu of a celebration, the G2 fans sat bewildered and stunned, their opponent, China's FunPlus Phoenix, sweeping them in a one-sided final. As the pockets of FunPlus fans around the arena let their voices be heard, the French crowd, known for its rapturous sound and chants, were for the first time silenced.
So, too, were G2's hopes of making League of Legends history. But what they had accomplished by getting to Paris, and the way G2 got there, did not fade.
"I've had a total of 350 players in G2 the last six years, and I've never seen a team with this kind of spirit," G2 founder and owner Carlos "Ocelote" Rodríguez Santiago said. "It's impossible to find."
The identity of the European champions throughout the year was its laid-back, easy-going attitude. G2 would talk trash and crack jokes at the most serious times during a match as if they were paid bonuses for every time they made a teammate laugh. For the most part, when G2 were winning (and they won a lot), the free-flowing confidence of the team gave them a swagger that almost no team in the world could match. Before their MSI final against North American side Team Liquid, top laner Martin "Wunder" Hansen posted to social media that it would be the quickest international final in the game's history.
Wunder and the team backed up their bravado, beating the North American champions in the quickest international final in League of Legends history and then continuing their multi-man stand-up routine at the proceeding news conference.
That unwavering confidence and swagger had no effect on FunPlus, though. After G2 suffered a close loss in Game 1, mishaps in the next game put them in a large deficit early, eventually resulting in FunPlus running away with the game in a textbook showing of how to snowball an early advantage.
But even as they were getting slapped around the field and were about to face three elimination games in a row, G2 were laughing. Their player webcams showed the team with smiles on their faces, cracking jokes and having a good time in the direst situation possible.
"We were still making jokes and laughing, even though we were getting smacked," G2's jungler Marcin "Jankos" Jankowski said. "It didn't feel like we changed much, you know? It didn't feel like we started choking or got scared of them, or changing our drafts or changing our priorities. We still had a plan in mind that we followed, and although it didn't work out, I was really happy with how we behaved as a team and played throughout this year."
In Game 3, the stage was set for the prayers of the fans to be answered. G2 fell behind early again but mustered a comeback by getting the first kill of the game and getting the crowd back into the match. For a few minutes in Game 3, the energy in the arena felt as if the series was about to tip into the direction of the Europeans, at least from the perspective of the fans. They were turning scrappy, unneeded fights into small victories.
Everything fell apart as quickly as it all came together. FunPlus snuck a Baron take under the noses of G2 and used that single neutral objective to twist the knife a final time into the heart of the hometown favorites. G2 didn't give up, getting small picks here and there to keep them in the series, but they didn't have the time necessary to stabilize themselves.
"I'm probably going to go straight to the hotel with [my family]," G2 mid laner Rasmus "Caps" Winther said. "And, well, not celebrate, but be with them and look over the year I had and recharge because obviously we've been to MSI, we've been to the final of worlds, so I just need some time to get ready for the next season."
On Monday, the players will be back to social media and their Twitch streams, poking fun at rivals and themselves, taking the loss to FunPlus, the stronger team on the day, in stride. Sunday night, however, behind the smirks and playful jabs, the players and management will know they might have let their best chance to ever win a world title on home soil slip away. This team might come back in 2020 and tear through the competition again to claim the crown, but for at least a year, there will be a sting attached to this series for G2, European and, yes, even some North American fans.
The best Western team of all time failed to win the world championship.