Time for a hot take for you: Season 3 of the Gfinity Elite Series was pretty exciting, wasn't it? Stating the obvious perhaps, but it bears repeating. When we went to break down the top 5 matches and moments from the season, we were spoiled for choice on both counts. There's no way we could narrow it down that much, so instead we're going to break down the best matches and most spectacular moments for EACH Elite Series tournament from Season 3: FIFA 18, Rocket League and Street Fighter V. Between all the popoffs, amazing goals, jaw-dropping KOs and show-stopping performances, these lists will still be far from easy for us to compile. But let's give it a crack anyway, shall we?We're going to kick off (pun intended) this week with FIFA 18. The newest game in Elite Series competition was always going to provide a fascinating inaugural season of competition, with many of the Elite Series' veteran teams drafting brand new rosters for it and many of FIFA's top teams and players coming over to join in the fun – including current and former FIFA Interactive World Champions. With star power in abundance, FIFA 18's first season as part of Gfinity Elite Series provided no shortage of high-quality matches – and in the semi-finals, we were even treated to a contest that fans and casters alike were declaring one of the most insane FIFA 18 matches in esports history. Strap yourselves in, folks...
5. UNILAD vs FNATIC – Group BThese two teams met twice in Elite Series Season 3, and whilst their second encounter in the Grand Final saw FNATIC romp home to lift the trophy, it's their first match we will take a look at today. Quite simply, this was a collision of four of the most in-form and high-quality FIFA players in the world today – a UNILAD team featuring reigning FIFA Interactive World Champion Gorilla and the mercurial talent of Shellz up against a FNATIC team starring Challenger Series graduate Rannerz and former Nordic Championship runner-up and Hawks Pro Cup winner Zimme. Ultimately it was honours even in a breathless contest; Rannerz threatened an upset with a late equaliser against Gorilla in Leg 1, but Gorilla pounced on a mistake at the other end right from the kick-off to close out a 3-1 victory. Zimme then stepped up to avenge his teammate's close loss by vanquishing Shellz 5-1 – all the more impressive given Shellz had yet to be beaten in Elite Series competition before this game, and Zimme raced into a 3-0 lead inside 20 in-game minutes. A hugely entertaining clash ended with a point for both teams which ultimately helped UNILAD win Group B and both teams advance to Playoffs.
4. Envy vs Vitality – Group ANext we go all the way back to the second week of Season 3 and revisit this heart-stopping battle between eventual semi-finalists Envy and quarter-finalists Vitality. An ultra-close first leg saw Ty scrap to a 1-0 win over Aero, but where this match really kicked into high gear was in a see-saw second leg. Due to travel issues, debutant Jas ended up competing in the second leg as a late substitute against Vitality's highly-rated Moolzn, and against all odds scored after just three in-game minutes and raced into a 2-0 lead at half time. At 3-1 with the clock ticking down, Jas looked to be on his way to a dream debut – but in the blink of an eye, Moolzn came storming back to level scores at 3-3, and with momentum on his side looked set to grab the late winner. Not to be denied however, Jas stayed calm, stormed downfield right off the restart and powered home the winning goal to provide this epic contest with one last sting in the tail. Poor Moolzn was devastated at the final whistle – this barnstormer of a second leg was definitely the kind of game that nobody deserved to lose.
3. FNATIC vs Nordavind – Quarter-Final 2Sometimes in sport, things happen that words struggle to do justice for. Freak results come out of nowhere and leave even the most experienced of pundits open-mouthed in shock, unable to explain what they've just seen. Take Germany battering Brazil 7-1 in the 2014 FIFA World Cup semi-finals, for example – could anyone have seen that coming?In the quarter-finals of Elite Series Season 3, we got our own freak result – a 12-1 aggregate victory for FNATIC over Nordavind.No, that's not a misprint.It's hard to believe looking back on it now, but for at least the opening part of the first leg, Nordavind were right there in the contest - Diogo Peixoto even took the lead against Zimme. How they must've been wishing time had stopped right at that moment, because everything after that was a rapid descent into disaster as FNATIC's in-form Zimme and Rannerz absolutely ran riot. Zimme's incredible counter-attacking play shredded poor Peixoto to pieces as he took out the first leg 6-1, and any hopes Chnewar had of instigating a remarkable comeback were dashed rapidly as Rannerz proceeded to smash a further six goals past him. You have to feel sorry for Nordavind in this case; in no way were they a bad team, but on this day they were absolutely outclassed by a FNATIC team hitting top gear and who would eventually go on to win the entire tournament.
2. UNILAD vs Method – Group BThe final round of league play is always a recipe for drama as teams duke it out for the last remaining Playoff spots, and this pulse-pounding classic was the perfect demonstration of all that. Context is important here; one week before, Method edged to 1-0 win over ARES, with Zelonius somehow bouncing back from 2-0 down to defeat Mobacha 3-2 in the second leg and snatch a vital point for Method. Both teams entered the final week in the hunt for the final playoff spot in Group B, and ARES did their part by beating Epsilon in the match right before this one to put themselves on the verge of qualification. Despite this, Method knew that just one point against the mighty UNILAD in the last league game of Season 3 would mean they qualified for playoffs at ARES' expense. UNILAD themselves were playing for the point they needed to top Group B, and they got it in a superb 3-1 victory for Gorilla against Pricey in the first leg. And as Shellz took a 1-0 lead early in the second leg, ARES were daring to dream – Method's playoff hopes looked to be slipping away.But fortunately, they had the player who never knows when he's lost. And with time ticking away, he somehow snatched two goals in the dying minutes and survived a heart-stopping penalty box scramble in injury-time to pull off the great escape. FIFA 18's own Houdini had done it again, and Method snatched the last playoff spot at the death. If you want to know why Zelonius won the FIFA 18 Player of the Season award, this is the perfect demonstration – the very definition of a clutch performance.
1. Envy vs FNATIC – Semi-Final 1As hard a choice as it was to order all our favourite matches from Season 3, Number #1 was fairly obvious all along. This was the match that blew the roof off the Gfinity Arena, left casters Brandon Smith and Richard Buckley hoarse from shouting and at times utterly lost for words, and etched itself firmly in the memories of everyone who witnessed it. An absolute classic that will go down in Elite Series history for years to come.And the irony is, the first leg was actually quite a dull affair. Aero defended resolutely and took his one chance with superb accuracy to clinch a 1-0 win over Rannerz in the opening game. And as the second leg kicked off and EisVogel started battering Zimme's goal, things were looking bleak for FNATIC. But from the moment Zimme survived the onslaught, charged down the field and scored off his very first attack of the game, the match descended into utter anarchy. Like a boxing match where both opponents stand and trade blows round after round, both players went for the jugular over and over again; EisVogel dominated large periods of the game and looked to have sealed Envy's passage to the final late on, but Zimme stormed back down the field and scored in the dying moments to win the second leg 2-1 and force extra-time with a 2-2 aggregate score. The additional period saw a further FOUR goals and Zimme once again pegging EisVogel back at the death to level it up 4-4, before proceeding to triumph in the penalty shootout as this epic contest finally drew to a close. One has to feel for poor EisVogel, who more than once thought he had sealed Envy's place in the Grand Final only to be denied in heartbreaking fashion over and over again. But after this titanic performance, FNATIC were more than deserving Season 3 champions – and boy did Zimme have to work hard for his R9 haircut.