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There is no better way for the 2023 Mid-Season Invitational Play-In to conclude than tomorrow’s Last Chance Qualifier match between Golden Guardians and PSG Talon. Even with the majority of best-of-three matches ending in 2-0 scorelines, the format change for this year’s MSI has created a far more exciting tournament than iterations of MSI from League of Legends esports seasons past.

As the 2nd seed of the League Championship Series, Golden Guardians has managed to fulfill expectations without putting much stress on the nerves of North American fans. The team had little to no trouble in their 2-0 victories over Vietnam Championship Series representative GAM Esports and Liga Latinoamérica representative Movistar R7. While they lost to LPL 2nd seed Bilibili Gaming in their second match of the Play-In, the Golden State Warriors affiliate took a game off of the Chinese representative and made the series more competitive than expected.

A loss to PSG Talon after performing above expectations all week would result in Golden Guardians opening up the wounds left by Cloud9 at MSI 2021, which saw the LCS representative replaced in the top 4 by PSG Talon in large part due to their 0-2 record against the Pacific Championship Series representative in the Rumble Stage.

Based on the first few matches of MSI 2023 from both squads, it’s fair to call Golden Guardians the favorite heading into the Last Chance Qualifier. However, in addition to the pressure of international performance, there’s also something to prove for GG jungler Kim “River” Dong-woo and mid-laner Kim “Gori” Tae-woo.

River and Gori have played for PSG Talon at earlier phases of their career, and both players have consistently performed above expectations since their arrival in North America. River may be playing the best League of his career right now and Gori reminded the world that he's still the player who won the LCK MVP award in his rookie split only two summers ago.

Golden Guardians is firing on all cylinders, but it’s River and Gori who form the 1-2 punch that catalyzes their success. Both players have continued to grow in North America, but a stumble against their former squad on the international stage would overshadow any domestic performances leading up to it.

A win over PSG Talon in tomorrow’s best-of-five is further proof against the critical notion that North America is a “retirement home” for players from the east, as well as further proof that Golden Guardians is a team that LCS fans can back emphatically on the international stage.