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The ESL Pro League is heading into the last stage of the groups. Nine of the twelve playoff teams have already been confirmed after Group C wound up their games last week. Team Vitality, Fnatic and Natus Vincere were the teams that made it through Group A, though not quite in the same order that one might have expected, while G2, FaZe Clan, and Outsiders qualified from the second group.
Last week saw a surprisingly under-par ENCE and Astralis eliminated with 1-4 and 2-3 results respectively, while MOUZ, Heroic and Complexity moved through to the playoffs. The last group doesn’t feature teams of the same caliber as the previous ones, but the teams are generally well-matched and should make for interesting viewing either way. Let’s take a look at how the teams shape up heading into the weekend.
Neither team has turned in performances of note at the major leagues this year, but are coming off contrasting results. The Riders have been eliminated from IEM Road to Rio qualifiers, while Evil Geniuses will be packing their bags and heading to Stockholm in a couple of weeks.
The betting market favors the Riders to pull ahead in this contest, but their confidence will be at an all-time low after their disastrous show at the European qualifiers. The Riders might have the skill but EG have momentum on their side, and this is the right opportunity for the former to reclaim some of their morale.
The Riders’ most impressive performance this year has been their third-place finish at the Intel Master Extreme in Cologne back in July. They achieved comfortable wins over MIBR and Team Vitality at the play-ins, then got past G2 and Vitality once more in the group stage to seal their playoff spot.
They progressed as far as the semi-finals, beating Team Liquid 2-1, but then came up against the indomitable FaZe Clan who put a firm end to their campaign. Riders’ 3rd-4th seed saw them take home $80k, and their best result of 2022. But that was as far as their luck would hold out. Riders will not be able to replicate their strong showing in Cologne, because they won’t be on the plane to Rio this year after crashing out of three European RMR Qualifiers, one after the next like a set of dominoes.
They lost their first game of Qualifier 2 to LDLC, then made it to the second round of Qualifier 3 before losing to B8. Sashi Esport put an end once and for all to their hopes of traveling to Malta for the RMRs. It’s hard to pinpoint how things could go so drastically wrong for a team within the span of a few weeks, from finishing at 3rd place in one tournament to failing to qualify for its next edition.
EG have been around the CS:GO circuit for a while, but have failed to make a mark on the major tournaments so far. While they’ve certainly tried to take a step in the right direction by making important changes to their roster, it hasn’t yet paid the kind of dividends that they wanted. At the earlier edition of the ESL Pro League in March EG seeded dead last between 21st-24th, though since then there have been major developments to their side.
EG have been through three different IGL’s in the last twelve months, Peter ‘stanislaw’ Jarguz parting ways with the franchise and his replacement Jacky ‘stewie2k’ Yip retiring from pro-play to focus on streaming and content-creation full-time. Damien ‘MaLeK’ Marcel was removed from his role as head catch, and demoted to a Strategy coach.
Reports of a rift between the former IGL and the coach made life pretty difficult for the team, according to Timothy ‘automatic’ Ta, and kept them from performing to their full potential. Rather than cry over spilt milk, EG decided to move on and look ahead. They signed Jadan ‘HexT’ Postma as the new IGL, and recruited Sanjar ‘neaLaN’ İshakov.
It’s still too early to tell how much of an effect these two could’ve had, but one supposes we’ll know soon enough. EG were excellent at the North American Qualifiers at the IEM Road to Rio, seeding 1st after winning five games in a row and will soon be heading to the RMRs in Stockholm, Sweden.
Team Liquid are a team on the rise, their results showing a marked improvement with every tournament they’ve played this year. They’re certainly favorites to win this game, but Eternal Fire shouldn’t forget how hard they’ve worked to get where they are. The Turkish team is still new to major global tournaments, and every game they play at this level should count as a learning experience, win or lose.
They are ranked third on the HLTV world rankings behind Natus Vincere and FaZe Clan. While they haven’t won any trophies this year, they’ve still managed to give form teams a run for their money. Up until July, Team Liquid haven’t managed to finish higher than fifth place at any major tournament. But their performance at the recently concluded Blast Premier Fall groups was the turning point they’ve been waiting for all year.
Team Liquid seeded in 1st-3rd place along with OG and Natus Vincere, winning $27,500 and qualifying for the Fall Finals. After knocking G2 and Complexity out of their way, they were beaten by Na Vi in the grand final of their group. That didn’t dent their progress however, because they went on to make short work of Ninjas in Pyjamas and Heroic 2-0 each at the play-ins to emerge victorious in the top three.
Twenty-two-year-old Mareks ‘YEKINDAR’ Gaļinskis has been a destructive force across the last three months, maintaining a rating of 1.14 and 0.73 kills per round. IGL Nick ‘nitr0’ Cannella, who was signed at the start of the year hasn’t lived up to his promise yet, but that doesn’t seem to have dampened TL’s prospects one bit.
oSee, NAF, and EliGE have all been in top form lately, all with a rating of 1.15 and over in August and after. If they keep up their form from the Blast, there’s no stopping them from creating history and ending their team’s long wait for a major title.
This ESL Pro League is only the second S-tier tournament that Fire have participated in since the team was formed almost exactly a year ago. Soon, they might have an opportunity for a third. After two failed attempts at the European Open Qualifiers 1 and 2, Fire finished first at Qualifier 3 and will soon head to Malta for the IEM Road to Rio: European RMRs.
They are a player-owned esports org co-founded and headed by Özgür “woxic” Eker and İsmailсan ‘XANTARES’ Dörtkardeş, and since their creation have shown cohesion, guile, and a burning will to succeed. Fire have quite a bit of experience in their roster with players like XANTARES and Engin ‘MAJ3R’ Küpeli, who’ve been in the CS:GO circuit for nearly a decade. XANTARES spent three years with BIG between 2018 and 2021 before joining Fire, and the Turkish-French MAJ3R spent some time with Team LDLC back in 2020.
Considering that this group has been playing together for only a year, the team’s progress has been astounding. In their very first appearance at the Pinnacle Cup back in May, they ended as second seed behind Team Finest and took home $20,000 as prize money. Up against teams like Fnatic, Movistar Riders and TYLOO who have been around for far longer, Fire’s top two finish was truly remarkable. However the results of this tournament go, it’s clear that their journey is only just beginning.
Cloud9 are the strongest team in their group by quite a margin, and shouldn’t have any difficulty finishing in the top three seeds. They haven’t appeared in a lot of professional tournaments this year, but have turned in notable performances just the same.
FURIA, on the other hand are just starting to make a name for themselves in the circuit after years on the fringes, and if they play to their potential there’s no reason to doubt that they might end up in the top three themselves.
Cloud9 announced their return to CS:GO in April after a year’s break from the game. Unable to field a full team due to financial struggles and difficulty coping with COVID-19 regulations, their roster disbanded in 2021 and that was the last anyone saw of C9 in the CS:GO scene for quite a while.
This year they acquired Gambit Esports’ roster, the side that had qualified for the PGL Antwerp Majors but were not allowed to compete in the tournament owing to their Russian ties. Cloud9’s new team got off to a pretty rocky start in Antwerp, seeding in 12th-14th place after getting knocked out of the Legends Stage 1-2 by Imperial Esports.
That turned out to just be teething troubles, however, because three weeks later they were crowned champions at the IEM Dallas, not a bad result for a team that’s been out of commission for a year. C9 beat ENCE comfortably 3-0 in the Grand Final and won $100,000, then followed that up with a 3rd-4th place finish at the Roobet Cup.
After that however their form dropped, and they were knocked out of the IEM Cologne in the group stage after successive 0-2 losses to Astralis and Team Liquid, seeding 9th-12th. Their world ranking took a nosedive from three down to eleven.
Furia were among the top teams at the previous edition of the ESL Pro League this year, finishing in 3rd-4th place. They topped their group, no mean feat considering ENCE, FaZe and Team Vitality were their competitors. The semi-finals were as far as they could get however, because FaZe were on a roll.
After a defeat to Astralis 2-1 in the quarterfinals, they were unable to stop FaZe from forging ahead and their campaign ended with a 0-2 loss in the semis. Still, they took home $55,000 and the satisfaction of getting as far as they did. Not long after they finished in 3rd-4th place at the IEM LAN tournament in Dallas, turning in another impressive set of performances that saw them get past Cloud9, BIG and G2 before ENCE put an end to their campaign in the semifinals.
They became one of only three teams to qualify directly for the IEM Road to Rio European RMRs from the PGL Antwerp, along with Imperial Esports and Team Liquid. Furia remained in the top ten HLTV rankings for most of the year, up until June after a series of tough results at the Roobet Cup, ESL Challenger at DreamHack Valencia 2022, and IEM in Cologne.
|Teams||Team Liquid vs Eternal Fire, Cloud9 vs Furia, EG vs Movistar Riders|
|Location||Played in Malta|
|Time||Saturday, September 24 at 6.30 AM ET|
|How to watch||Official Twitch channel|
With an interest in strategy and mathematics, applying that to sports writing was the natural progression. A writer at night and the founder of a gaming company, Nikhil’s previous experience includes working with ESPN for five years. His specialization includes soccer, basketball, tennis, and esports betting. Email: [email protected]More info on Nikhil Kalro
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