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The PGL Major Antwerp 2022: Challengers Stage is set to be played from May 9-12. All the Regional Major Qualifiers have finished and 24 CS:GO outfits that will compete in the tournament have now been identified.
From the lot that have made it this far, eight are already through to the Legends stage, which means they will directly compete from the second round of matches. The remaining 16 teams – comprising eight Challengers and eight Contenders – will kick off the Antwerp Major.
The regional representation will be quite skewed because there are 16 European sides that have made it this far. Of the other eight, there are six from the Americas (North & South) and two from the Asia Pacific.
As for the format, only the elimination and advancement matches will be played in a best of three format. All other matches are best of one.
This contest will kick off the tournament for us on May 9. Does it come as any surprise to you that the European outfit start as strong favourites? An IHC win, or shall we call it an upset? – will deliver nearly 5X returns on your pot. That doesn’t really mean you punt on them blindly. Let’s look at both sides with a little more nuance.
Make no mistake – Astralis are the stronger team on paper. But it’s not like they can just turn up and expect to win. Their recent record hasn’t been great, but objectively, you can say they have also been battle hardened because they have competed against tougher sides.
In the recently-concluded ESL Pro League-15, they were in a tough group, alongside Natus Vincere, Heroic, AGO, Complexity and Evil Geniuses. Astralis finished third in the pool with three wins and two losses, which then meant a round of 12 clash against Entropiq in the playoffs.
While they nudged home by a 2-1 margin there, their campaign came to grinding halt in the quarterfinals where they were shown the door by inspired Brazilian outfit FURIA Esports. FURIA would go on to lose the semi-final to eventual champions FaZe clan.
Their opponents, IHC, have come through the Asia Pacific RMR. A Mongolian outfit, IHC have some sort go history to preserve as this will be the first-ever representation of a five-member squad from the country at a CS:Go Major.
IHC beat by Tyloo and Renegades to get this far. Not only did they beat two top sides from he Asia Pacific region to get here, they were also unbeaten through the LAN Qualifiers. They won it and were richer by USD 5000 for their efforts.
All said, the experience of playing a Major against a European outfit that has been there and done that will be quite unique and daunting. IHC would do well to play fearlessly and shed inhibitions they may have. It could free them up to play without worrying about the end result. This could also give them the best chance to compete.
Three IHC players – Tengis “sk0R” Batjargal, Byambasuren “bLitz” Garidmagnai and Munkhbold “Techno4k” Sodbayar have made it through to the list of top five CS:GO players at the Asia Pacific Regional Qualifier. Their HLTV rating of 1.34, 1.31 and 1.11 respectively a mark of their abilities. The upcoming Challenger is another great chance to consolidate on their gains.
Runners-up at the ESL Pro League 15, ESL have gotten here courtesy a win in the Europe RMR final by beating Anonymo Esports by a 2-0 scoreline. And they are massive favourites against South American outfit 9z, who are here purely on merit, having set the American RMR on fire.
They overcame a deflating 2-0 loss on an opening day to record big wins over more fancied sides – which we will discuss in a bit – to get here. As such, the odds are firmly with ENCE and there’ a reason why they are the favourites.
Their run-in at the European RMR final was a tricky contest because Anonymo had managed to pull off two mighty upsets earlier, beating G2 Esports and Entropiq. And on cue, they put up a commendable fight against ENCE too.
Through their recent performances, ENCE have proven to be a contender for the top tier of CS: GO. Their runner-up finish earned them USD 90,000 following a competitive 1-3 loss in the ESL Pro League final to FaZe Clan. They’ve been flying under the radar for a while. This presents the perfect opportunity for them to go from taking small steps to taking a giant leap.
At one stage between 2018 and 2019, the team earned 14 podium finishes at majors, with several championships top their name. However, the loss of players leading to rejigging of rosters meant they had to reset. The core of the side has struggled at big events since the pandemic. Last year at the ESL Pro League they finished fifth. It was their best-ever finish.
This year, by bettering that, they have shown the kind of improvements they have made over the past two years. Make no mistake, this sudden surge isn’t a result of overnight success. It’s been a process that has evolved over time, templates have been torn and redrawn, strategies thought over and carefully planned. Let us put it this way: the success they are riding currently is no accident.
Having entered the ESL Pro League as underdogs, they quickly made a mark by defeating eventual champions FaZe Clan 2-1.
The giant-killing act didn’t end there, they followed that up with big wins over Vitality and Virtue pro. ENCE then began their playoff run win big wins over Fnatic and Ninjas in Pyjamas. While they couldn’t quite repeat their magic in their second meeting overt FaZe Clan, in the grand finale, it was still quite a feat that they managed to eventually make the final.
From being an all-Finnish outfit, they currently have in their roster an Israeli, a Dane, a Montenegrin and two players from Poland. Coach sAw is the only Finn in their active roster. However, they’re still based in Finland.
Irrespective of what they do here, 9z has already made history. The PGL Antwerp Major will feature a non-Brazilian South American outfit for the first time, having clinched the last available spot from the Americas qualifier.
This is a team with a fine fusion of Argentinians, Uruguayans and Chile, and they completed a terrific comeback at the Americas RMR. From being 2-0 down on the opening day of the competition, they won five series in a row to get here. Along the way, they eliminated the likes of Bad News Bears, 00 Nation. Sao Caetano, Evil Geniuses and paIN Gaming along the way.
In terms of a contest, this one promises to be a lot more even than the first two. But the odds are still heavily favour forZe, who became the third European outfit (at the time of qualifying) – after Heroic and BIG – to seal their spot at the PGL Antwerp CS:GO Major.
They should have tremendous willpower in being able to bounce back against sAw in the European Major RMR, eventually taking the game 2-1 to get here. That they did so despite sAw being the more pedigreed outfit tells you of the giant strides they have taken along the way. In comparison, forZe have a much-younger squad who have made up for their relative inexperience with the kind of firepower not many other young sides in the region have.
sAw won seven rounds straight on the highly unfavoured T-side. Then after both teams switched sides, sAw failed to triumph in the pistol round, and the contest started to turn forZe’s way. It tells you how this is a team that doesn’t give up. They typify the saying ‘it ain’t over until it’s over.’ Something for the Renegades to chew on.
In February, Renegades endured a major setback. Or at least a road block as they’d like to call it. Renegades were knocked out of IEM Katowice 2022 following a lower bracket loss to Entropiq.
In a way, it was symbolic of the year they’ve had – very up and down and one that has been crippled by the pandemic. They haven’t had any kind of momentum or build-up. Odd streaks of brilliance have been followed by barren phases of non-activity.
Just when one thought they’d turned a corner, the Renegades were forced to miss ESL Pro League last year due to the pandemic.
Prior to that, they were building momentum towards something substantial at the IEM Cologne play-in, where they beat OG in a stunning 2-0 upset. Now on their way back up the tricky hill, Renegades have everything to play for, especially since they’ve also shuffled their roster around.
Since December 2021, the top-ranked Australian CS; GO outfit was down a player since Liam “Malta” Schembri, a longtime member of the setup, was released at the end of the season. Now, the door has opened for Liar, who was the stand-in at IEM Katowice, but he is yet to prove himself on the big stage. This is as good a chance as any for the 24-year old tome amends.
G2 Out To Prove Lack Of Cohesion Just A Perception
G2 were given a rude awakening last month when they were beaten by Anonymo Esports in the opening game of the European Regional RMR. By winning 19-16 on the mirage, the Polish outfit let out a statement of intent. But G2 have regathered themselves since to set themselves up for a decent shout at the Challenger now, having completed a decent signing in Aleksib.
m0NSESY is also another young player who is blending well into the set up. Both these players are complementing Niko superbly on the roster. huNter is a formidable anchor and a reliable player, who may have so easily slipped into the background for any other side.
Fact he’s emerged as a pivot for G2 is testimony to their roster and how they have made things click despite what many believe to be a case of lack of chemistry within the group. It’s now for G2 to prove otherwise against favourites Liquid.
Like G2, Liquid too lost their opening game of the Americas RMR against 00Nation, a South American team whose decisive and aggressive gameplay stood out as they managed a 16-8 victory on Dust-II. But they showed what matters isn’t the way you start but the way you finish.
And so, here they are now, entering the tournament as one of the favourites. They are easily among the strongest North American outfits in the competition.
Turkey’s super team Eternal Fire became the first Turkish outfit since Space Soldiers at FaceIt London 2018 to qualify for a Major. The side has defeated OG in a round of five at the Europe RMR to qualify to this tournament.
So in many ways, coming into this tournament, they have rewritten history. A major step towards their progress was taken last August when they united four of the most popular CS:GO players with ISSAA, who played alongside woxic during his time with HellRaisers.
Having build up the hype Özgür “woxic” Eker’s new CS:GO project was revealed last August when the former former mousesports and Cloud9 AWPer will joined forces with Ismailcan “XANTARES” Dörtkardeş, Buğra “Calyx” Arkın, Issa “ISSAA” Murad, and Ömer “imoRR” Karataş at Eternal Fire. That nearly 10 months on, they’re talked among the most improved teams tells you of the strides they have taken.
But against a slightly more experienced team, the Bad News Eagles, it won’t be a walk in the park. The odds are with the Eagles, but don’t let that dissuade you into punting on Eternal Fire. This one could go either way.
Bad News Eagles are set to compete in the biggest tournament in their lives, a culmination of a number of years of hard work. The Kosovo-based outfit is the first to join the Major league without having an organisation to represent them. Their real goal at this stage is to reach the next stage of the Major in the legends stage, which will help them get an invitation to the next Major.
After this success, their goal is to reach the next stage of the Major in the legends Stage, in which they can provide invitations for the next major.
|PGL Major Antwerp 2022 Information|
|Teams||Astralis, G2, Liquid, Bad News Eagles, Eternal Fire, IHC|
|Time||Monday, May 9 at 5.00 AM EST onwards|
|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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