ECS Season 7 Finals are in the books, and there is a lot to unpack from the event. When it started, the narrative was that this was the moment Astralis came roaring back and proved to the world CSGO was still their game, but by the end of the week that had shifted dramatically, as Brazilian side FURIA shocked everyone to make the Grand Final, where they went quietly, quite unlike them, into the night against a Vitality team that has improved dramatically in recent months.
Due to the standard of teams at the event, which was decidedly tier-1.5 at best, it’s hard to know just how good Furia, or even Vitality can really be at a tournament like ESL One Cologne or the Major, but there is one thing we can be sure of. The emergence of Mathieu ‘ZyWoo’ Herbaut has been a joy to watch over the past year or so, and there is now no doubt the 18-year-old French sniper is a force to be reckoned with, and already a top-10 player in the world.
It has long been known that the young man is a prodigious talent when it comes to the AWP (and not bad with the rifles at all), but that was all we knew for a while. While he is great mechanically, there is a long line of snipers that have had impressive runs with the gun, only to fall away after a time, especially when they get a great environment for their own development early on. This applied to the likes of Guardian and kennyS, both of whom were lucky enough to be the central focus of a team, and therefore were able to develop into total stars of the game.
As it turned out, Guardian was able to translate his brilliance from team to team, even if there is an inevitable blunting of his edge that has come with time, and kennyS has shown his talent was more than just a great setup even if he’s rarely hit those heights again. For ZyWoo, the question was always whether he could translate his talent to LAN, and if the likes of NBK, apEX and RPK could give him a consistent platform without asking him to do all the heavy lifting.
At ECS Season 7 Finals it is fair to say the young man made his mark, and answered the first question about doing it on LAN. He may not have faced the best AWPers in the world with Na’Vi absent and Astralis dodged on this occasion, but in defeating MIBR and North he showed a good level, and honestly looked a step ahead of the rest once the playoffs started and the games became do or die. Nobody on NRG or Furia could match him, and his MVP was s1mple-esque in the distance between him and the rest of the pack.
France's answer to s1mple
The real tests are ahead of him still, with ESL One Cologne and the Berlin Major set to define the CSGO year in the wake of Katowice, but there is no longer a reason to doubt Mathieu, or the team around him. HLTV’s rankings have become less and less pertinent in recent months, and Vitality being ranked fourth shows how odd the start to 2019 has been in the world of Counter-Strike, but this is a legit side now that needs to find out where else it can improve.
In ZyWoo they have a ready-made star, and the challenge for NBK, ALEX and the other leaders of the group is to find a way to create a team around him that can operate in his absence, too. Na’Vi have succeeded in the first respect sort of, but they are still not able to operate at a high level when s1mple isn’t on his A-game, meaning that clever teams and IGLs will just shut him down, knowing that you win the game by doing so.
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The likes of Liquid, ENCE and (yes, still) Astralis will do that when they come face-to-face with Mr Herbaut, but for now they have to sit and admire the numbers he put up, and trophy he took home from ECS Season 7 Finals. It’s wonderful to say in a game with such a rocky path from potential to pro, that France is producing stars again and ZyWoo is the real deal. We have a genuine world star on our hands for years to come if he maintains this level. If he can improve, it might not be as long as many people think until we see s1mple’s level matched, or maybe even surpassed.