Astralis – Prior to ESL One Cologne, all the opinions offered by experts were the same, as is so often the case. The good teams were expected to do well, the bad ones to fail, and the ones in the middle were harder to predict. As it turned out, one of the bad teams did really well, while the best team in the world had both a good and bad time of things out in Germany.
For all the form s1mple and co. have shown, there is no doubt that in a pre-, or maybe post-FaZe-Clan-with-Olof era the world number one spot belongs to a group of Danes.
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With their group mates having shot themselves in the foot with bad transfers and infighting, and Cloud 9 literally having their head in the clouds if they think they can win with their current line-up, Astralis’s main threat in the groups is a flaky Team Liquid that look to have lost their way.
Now, for a point of balance, it is worth saying we said all of this before the action got underway in Germany, and Astralis didn’t even make the final. That is the one weakness with this team, while they are amazing as a unit they can be pressured, and give up an advantage to some other squads in terms of pure aim and talent. On the other hand, lightning rarely strikes twice, and this team has to be favourites pre-event.
Expected group finish: 1st
MiBR – when ELEAGUE had the major, and Richard Lewis was the host, this team was called two things. One was SK Gaming, the name of the European org they spent a tempestuous couple of years working for, and the other was ‘world number one’. With legendary in-game leader FalleN in charge, the world’s best player coldzera in the saddle, and fer roaming around like an unpredictable one-man army, it was nigh-impossible to beat SK, as FaZe Clan were so kind to demonstrate time and again.
Today, all that has changed. There is no question that MiBR are anything other than gross outsiders for this event, and even the fact they are considered outsiders is more a hangover from the days when they could compete than anything based on present form. Having added, disastrously, an American to their all-Brazilian mix and seen only pain for it, they decided to recently do the same, and if Tarik does anything other than flounder along with his new friends it will be a massive shock.
Expected group finish: 3rd
Cloud 9 – this is a team that has lost. Not just their best players, but their way, too, and their chances for the future. They look lost in the server, they seem lost in terms of team construction, and they arrive at this event with two subs having just lost their best fragger in game. If you know what Cloud 9 the organisation are into, that won’t surprise you, but it has been painful for fans of the game and team to watch major winners turn into minor events in such a short time.
If the players they have left can refocus and put down the battle royale games, it might be possible for them to achieve something like their pre-major level, but without real change at the top this team is done as an elite unit. Even asset stripping the team would seem to be a tough job, as the value of autimatic and his colleagues has been severely reduced by their poor performance.
Expected group finish: 4th
Team Liquid – Team Liquid has the best squad of any North American org, and there is an argument that in terms of pure talent they might be the best in any part of the continent, north or south. However, in the last few months they’ve been going backwards faster than Nigel Farage presented with a promise he made pre-referendum, and with all the grace of the same man exiting a recently-descended helicopter.
They could finish top of this group, beating Astralis and all others and looking majestic, or they could go missing as so often has been the case. Losing to North and BIG in Cologne is a fantastic example of the latter of course, and they need to pull out their collective finger and put it back on the trigger if this isn’t to be the latest in a long line of expensive failures for the team.
Expected group finish: 2nd
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