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Group B of the ESL Pro League will kick off their group stage matches this week. Some of the results from Group A were unexpected but fascinating, however in the end the three qualifiers were the same as most had predicted.
Team Vitality’s perfect unbeaten run saw them topping the group, followed by Fnatic and Natus Vincere. Team Spirit, Ninjas in Pyjamas and Endpoint were eliminated. NAVI was surprisingly below par, losing their last three games of the group to the teams who were knocked out.
The coming week sees the teams from Group B – favourites Faze Clan, along with G2 Esports, BIG, Outsiders, MIBR and FTW Esports – playing their first games in the ESL, and the top three will progress to the next stage.
The betting market believes that the odds of FTW winning this game are very slim. Outsiders don’t have much to write home about either, but they’ve still managed to at least qualify for the major S-tier tournaments this year. It’s been a while since FTW have played any of those, and they need to be prepared to face the cream of the crop at the ESL.
FTW haven’t been at the top of their game lately. In the European RMRs at the IEM Road to Rio, they crashed out in their very first game and seeded 33rd-64th. They were beaten 9-16 by 1PIN in Inferno, and a single game ended their hopes of qualifying for the European qualifiers in Malta.
FTW managed to find themselves at the ESL on account of their qualification through the Pro League Conference Season 16 in June, where they seeded 5th-6th. This granted them entry into the group stage, along with MIBR, Endpoint, Eternal Fire, Outsiders and HEET. Three new faces joined their roster in June, André ‘Ag1l’ Gil, Renato ‘stadodo’ Gonçalves, and Francisco ‘kst’ Fragoso. Rui ‘vts’ Soares was signed as head coach in the last couple of months as well.
In the last three months FTW have won 13 and lost 15 of their games, their roster as a whole averaging a kill-death ratio of 0.91. While they’ve performed moderately well at some C-tier and B-tier tournaments in Portugal, winning the Circuito Retake Season 4 and the Master League Portugal Season 9, it’s been a long time since they’ve managed to qualify for bigger tournaments.
But they have a young, ambitious team; the average age of their roster is 22, and it speaks volumes that they’ve made it this far for the first time in years. The lessons and experience gained from playing at this level, no matter where they finish in this ESL, will be worth gold for this young side.
Outsiders, better known to most of us as Virtus.pro, acquired the neutral tag after their parent group’s links to certain Russian companies and individuals were sanctioned by the American and European governments.
Despite being mired in controversy, they haven’t let it affect their game too much, generally maintaining the same standard of play they always have. They didn’t do great at the Roobet Cup nor at the Intel Extreme Masters XVII – Cologne, in both cases seeding last between 13th-16th. At the Roobet Cup they crashed after losing both their matches in the group stage and finished bottom of their pool.
In the IEM they coasted through the play-ins, but then slipped from upper bracket to lower bracket to elimination. At the ESL Pro League Conference season they seeded 1st-4th, beating Falcons Esports 2-0 in the final round to book their spot in the main tournament. Unlike their opponents in this game, they have their fair share of experience playing in global events and that will definitely give them the edge going into this game.
They were among the top teams at the conference season, finishing with an overall team rating of 1.30. Evgeniy ‘FL1T’ Lebedev, with an individual rating of 1.50 was the best player in the tournament by quite a margin. He also boasts an overall impact rating of 1.58, and 0.89 kills per round.
These two should be among the most interesting teams to watch in this ESL. Most likely they will seed through in the top three to progress along with Faze Clan, but G2 is definitely the superior team between the two. More than likely they’ll come out on top in this contest.
G2 are currently the tenth best CSGO team in the world according to the HLTV rankings. This year has not been kind in terms of trophies, and a certain controversial addition to their roster has come under fire. You know who I’m talking about of course, Justin ‘jks’ Savage.
All his stats over the last three months have been poor – an impact rating of 0.85, an abysmal 0.59 kills per round, an average damage of 66 per round, and an overall rating of 0.93. Rasmus ‘HooXi ‘ Nielsen hasn’t lived up to the hype either, and last month he averaged 0.40 kills per round, and an overall rating of 0.71.
After Faze pipped them to second place at the IEM Katowice in February, G2 have been dealt one disappointing blow after the next. On the other hand, bringing jks on board in August was up to them so really it’s an open-and-shut case of making one’s own bed. Ilya ‘m0NESY’ Osipov however has been brilliant in the same period. The 17-year-old rifler has an impact rating of 1.16, and an overall rating of 1.17.
Nikola ‘Niko’ Kovač has been on the money as well, rated at 1.22 in the same period. It remains to be seen how long G2 will keep the faith in their two liabilities, clutching to memories of their past glory, or call it quits. Right now they’re relying almost entirely on m0NESY and NiKo, and it’s not going to get them very far.
BIG have had a so-so year, but they’ve made more appearances at international tournaments than in 2021. Nineteen-year old Karim ‘Krimbo’ Moussa hasn’t yet had the kind of impact BIG would’ve liked, averaging a rating of 1.10 and 0.71 kills per round.
But he’s still young, and already shown a lot of promise to be playing at this level so he’ll only get better from here. Nils ‘k1to’ Gruhne has also been disappointing up until now. His stats over the last three months have been average, maintaining an impact rating of 1.07 and 0.71 kills per round.
BIG’s most recent showing was at the Blast Fall Groups in August, where they seeded 10th-12th. They were knocked out in the lower bracket final by Heroic, going down 14-16 in Nuke. The ever reliable Johannes ‘tabseN’ Wodarz did the best he could, dealing most kills (30) and most damage (105.4) in the game. But without support, BIG weren’t going to make it. In the play-ins they were knocked out 0-2 by G2 Esports. This is the first time the two teams will be meeting since then, so BIG will have a point to prove.
The highlight of BIG’s year has been winning the Roobet Cup in June. Beating Faze 1-2 in the grand final was a moment to remember indeed, and the $150,000 prize money was their biggest haul of the year. Apart from that, their best result of the year has been a 3rd-4th seed at the IEM Dallas.
Faze should be expected to coast through this one. They couldn’t have asked for an easier start to their group, and Faze will view this as an easy couple of points. MIBR, on the other hand might not be able to compete as well at the international stage, but have shown quite a bit of promise. However they’re up against the best CSGO team of 2022, and beating them is a long shot.
MIBR qualified to the ESL groups through the Pro League Conference, where they humbled opposing teams and seeded first. They’ve brought a couple of new faces on board this year, Breno ‘brnz4n’ Poletto, and Henrique ‘HEN1’ Teles. The team from Brazil has shown plenty of fight in 2022, and though their actual results haven’t shown any drastic improvement, they clearly have the drive to succeed.
MIBR finished at second seed in the American RMRs, part of the IEM Road to Rio, just behind paiN Gaming. Brazil will host the IEM for the first time in their history, a big step that shows just how far the eSports movement has progressed in the country. Teams like MIBR continue to show growth and promise, and don’t be surprised to see them among the top ranked teams in the next few years.
While they haven’t found a lot of success at the global stage yet, they have certainly turned in notable performances in A-tier and B-tier tournaments across the Americas. MIBR has plenty of experience on board, Matheus ‘Tuurtle’ Anhaia, Jhonatan ‘JOTA’ Willian and Raphael ‘exit’ Lacerda having played nearly 600 maps between them. Their roster is now an exciting mixture of youth and experience, and they have the potential to go places.
JOTA especially has been the most valuable player by a margin. Since he was signed last year, he holds a rating of 1.17 and has averaged 0.73 kills per round. A loss to Faze in this first set is inevitable, but shouldn’t dishearten them because they’re only going to improve from here.
Of the nine major tournaments Faze has participated in this year, they have won – wait for it – five of them. It bears repeating that they became the first team to win the golden trio in a single season – the IEM Katowice, ESP Pro League Season 15, and the PGL Antwerp Majors.
They stand second on the world rankings with 896 points, behind Natus Vincere. Faze’s worst result of the year has been a 5th-6th seed at the Blast Spring Finals, and the same at the IEM in Dallas. Most recently they seeded 4th-6th at the Blast Fall Groups along with G2 and Ninjas in Pyjamas, qualifying for the Blast Fall Finals.
Heroic defeated them 10-16 in the group stage grand final, but they still scraped through in the play-ins by beating OG and Astralis 2-1. In the last three months, Helvijs ‘broky’ Saukants has come into his own, the best of the lot with a rating of 1.17 and 0.76 average kills per round.
Russel ‘Twistzz’ Van Dulken isn’t far behind, rated 1.16. Faze are naturally one of the tournament favourites, as they have been at every major series this year, and their opener should be a cakewalk.
|Faze Clan vs MIBR, FTW Esports vs Outsiders, G2 Esports vs BIG
|Played in Malta
|Thursday, September 8 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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