This time last year, several loaded teams battled to win ESL One Cologne, one of the most prestigious tournaments in the CSGO calendar. One by one, these titans have fallen so now we have one of most level playing fields in the history of the game. As a tournament featuring all of today’s top-level teams begins, we run through the four favourites to win it all and preview some potential grudge matches.
After a convincing victory at ESL Pro League in Montpellier, Team Liquid travel to Germany as the consensus best team in the world. Despite a disappointing performance at the Katowice Major, the side steadily improved due to Jacky “Stewie2k” Yip’s arrival late last year. His addition has given Team Liquid and extra dimension to their play, allowing them to perform with greater consistency than they had done previously.
Hoping to thwart Liquid’s plans are their old rivals Astralis. The Danish team had a spectacular spell of dominance bookmarked by wins at the last two majors. Since Katowice though, the once mighty Astralis have been a shadow of their former selves. Fans speculate this has been due to the team’s decision to miss tournaments early in the year which led to disappointing placings at the recent ECS and EPL finals. The Danes still possess the talent to be the world’s number one again, but another poor performance in Cologne would be a disaster.
Last year’s victor, Natus Vincere, has been absent from competitive play since benching long-time player Ioann “Edward” Sukhariev in May. His replacement, Kirill “Boombl4” Mikhailov, turned a few heads on Team Winstrike but has no experience at the highest level. As such, it’s difficult to predict how good NaVi will be Cologne; will this acquisition be enough to inspire their stacked roster, or will they need to replace veteran in-game leader Danylo “Zeus” Teslenko to reach their full potential?
After their fairy tale run in Katowice, ENCE abstained from online leagues to free up their schedule for more offline tournaments and team practice. The strategy has worked to an extent, ENCE have maintained their top form from the major, but they’ve struggled to improve any further. If anyone above them slip-up, the Finns will be ready to pounce, but they may struggle to match up to similarly ranked teams in an old fashioned punching match.
Several hotly contested rivalries could be showcased at this tournament, most notably FaZe and Mousesports who have been placed close to each other in the bracket. This match-up would see Finn “karrigan” Andersen face up against his former FaZe teammates with his new Mousesports team. FaZe benched karrigan after star player Nikola “NiKo” Kovač seized the shot-calling role. Karrigan landed on his feet with Mousesports and will be hoping for a repeat of last time he faced his former team, a 2-0 victory in Montpellier.
We could also see a battle for Brazilian supremacy between the old guard of MIBR and the young powerhouse of Furia. MIBR has struggled to find solid performances recently, but the recent addition of Lucas “LUCAS1” Teles on loan from Luminosity could improve their form. However, this will be the first time Lucas has been on a team without his twin brother, both of whom have question marks around their discipline. Meanwhile, Furia has soared up the world rankings with impressive tournament runs including a final appearance at ECS in London. Are they now good enough to eclipse their Brazilian big brother?
The first CSGO tournament in Cologne was a Valve major held in 2014 with a final between Fnatic and Ninjas in Pyjamas. Both of these legendary Swedish teams will be present five years later at this year’s tournament with six players that featured in 2014 still representing one of the teams. Though neither team lives up to their former heights, matches between the two are fierce as both want to be the best team in Sweden.
ESL One Cologne begins on 2nd July and culminates in a final at the Lanxess Arena on 7th July.