A Look at IEM Sydney
We are just one day away from IEM Sydney and now is the perfect time to reflect on the potential contenders and pretenders at the tournament. The underdogs of the tournament are destined to interrupt any potential hypothetical predictions made starting day one. Only by understanding the team’s respective build up in the last 6 months in regards to tournaments and the consequences of any roster changes.
Throughout the past year, the NA mix-team has looked incredibly strong, but has always been second fiddle to the Danish Super-power, Astralis. With the additions of Jacky “Stewie2k” Yip as the team’s fifth and the return of Eric “adreN” Hoag as the coach, they finally have a full NA line-up. Overall, Liquid has looked incredibly dangerous and are one of the favorites to win Sydney. However, it is obvious that they have faced a lack of serious mental fortitude. Yet, this can only be taken at face value as the current iteration of their roster has only been together for around 5 months. I can see Liquid potentially making it to the Grand Finals and winning the entire event at this current time. They recently went 3-0 in their group at ESL Pro League and their loss at BLAST Pro Series to FaZe Clan has no real value due to the tournament’s structure. It took Astralis 4 whole years to finally conquer their inner demons and make it to the Major Grand Finals. Time is everything for Liquid and I truly believe that is now is the right time for Liquid to win the entire event.
This new iteration of mousesports has looked revitalized with the classic -player +player move of Finn "karrigan" Andersen back to the mouse trap. Subsequently, the young unproven talent of David “frozen” Čerňanský adds an interesting dynamic to the team – similar to what Robin “ropz” Kool first brought onto the line-up as a flashy unproven pugstar from FACEIT. Turkish AWPER, Özgür "woxic" Eker’s transition from raising hell to this team has been a steady, but quick one. woxic has contributed and acted as a dynamic, creative and extremely consistent sniper for mouz. Last year, mousesports infamously took out Renegades in the quarter-finals with an entirely different line-up compared to this year’s iteration. This line-up has existed as a core for only around one month at this point and has looked dangerously brilliant at ESL Pro League. Expect this team to either make an extremely deep run into the finals, considering karrigan’s experience, or bomb out of this event.
With FaZe finally transitioning into the new era of their team and with Håvard “rain” Nygaard, Nikola “NiKo” Kovač and Dauren "AdreN" Kystaubayev all showing up as a team once again, they are looking as dangerous as ever. Their confidence is at an all time high after a victory at BLAST, but that win can only be taken at a certain weighting. BLAST overall has issues being Bo1’s and with no overtimes on their games. Albeit the pure confidence gained from the victory has shown that the FaZe Clan boys are back into form. This is something to be incredibly scared about, but the real question to ask is whether they can continue to develop their confidence under Niko’s calling. I expect FaZe to make a deep run into the semi-finals in Sydney.
This will be NRG’s second time visiting the land down under. At this point, NRG has maintained the same 4-man core since the 15th of January 2018. The only differentiating factor is that this time they have added the content king himself, Tarik “Tarik” Celik. NRG finally made their first major appearance in Katowice after a disappointing Major run at FACEIT. With the swift rise of Vincent "Brehze" Cayonte to become one of NA’s greatest riflers, NRG are arguably the second best NA team behind Team Liquid. They have recently looked incredibly impressive by placing 3rd-4th at Starseries Season 7 in ShangHai China - a tournament where they would be defeated by Fnatic 0-2, but one that would prove to the world that they are a serious contender to be a top ten team in the world. In my eyes, expect a quarter to semi-finals appearance from NRG in Sydney.
As an Australian, it is hard to predict and even watch the Renegades at a time. I will also say that I will attempt to remove as much bias as possible in this prediction. Overall, the Renegades made their first ever top 8 run in Australian CS history at IEM Katowice, following a long bootcamp. This boot camp seemed to change the team, that would also place 3-4th at StarSeries Season 7. Even taking a map off of Navi, before Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev and Denis "electronic" Sharipov finally showed up to take their team over the edge. However, the Renegades have notably taken wins off of several tier one teams such as MIBR. They are, to this day, still attempting to prove that their Major run was not a fluke, and they have looked like an entirely different team since Katowice. With the return of Aleksandar "kassad" Trifunović as the coach from October of 2018, and the additions of Sean "Gratisfaction" Kaiwai and Jay "Liazz" Tregillgas as the younger and continually-growing talent picked out of Australia, the team is finally blending together as always hoped for. I expect them to make a quarter-semi-final run in Sydney with the full support of the Australian crowd. The renegades must ride the individual talents of every single player on the line-up and show that they can beat the best of the best to the world.
Fnatic is the team that I am most on the edge for. In one tournament they can drop out of the group stages, and in another they can potentially win the entire event. The roster has been in absolute roster tribulation for the last year since GOLDEN, Robin “flusha” Rönnquist and Jonas "Lekr0" Olofsson were on the line-up. The additions of Ludvig "Brollan" Brolin and return of Simon "twist" Eliasson (since 2017) has brought a new era of Fnatic talent. One that has not been seen such potential since the days of the addition of Olof “Olofmeister” Kajbjer and Freddy “KRIMZ” Johansson to the team, from LGB Gaming. I really do not see how Fnatic will go in Sydney, but anything less than a top-8 tournament placing is disappointing for the team and to me as a fan of Counter-Strike. Out of all the potential contenders I have the least faith in Fnatic as a team in Sydney to make a run at the title. However, overall I have faith in them to show up in new and dynamic ways
The brazilians recently returned to an all Brazilian line-up with the return of Epitácio "TACO" de Melo and João "felps" Vasconcellos to the team. This was a year after an NA/Brazilian was no longer deemed to be the right way to approach the future of their team. Since then the Brazilians made a semi-final run at the IEM Katowice 2019 major, but has lost to teams that they would not have 2 years prior. In losses to Windigo at WESG and Luminosity at ESL Pro League Season 9, the Brazilians have taken some time to return to form. At times they have looked like their 2016 selves - who won back to back majors - at other times they have looked like their time is over. This is specifically shown from their performances at BLAST Pro Series São Paulo by placing last and also a 12-14th showing at StarSeries Season 7. This team has the potential to either bomb out of BLAST Pro Series or make a deep run into the grand-finals of Sydney. This is up to the line-up as they have not had much time to practice since the line-up were returned to their roots. This may be indicative of why it is taking the team so longer to return to their winning ways. I expect MIBR to make a top-8 run in Sydney, but would not be surprised from a few close but unfortunate losses against some unlikely names.
Heroic is a strange case for an underdog, but the team has proven to be a nurturing ground for some of the brightest Nordic talent. Under the veteran leadership of Adam “friberg” and with the continually improving AWPing presence of Daniel “mertz” Mertz, in my eyes Heroic is the one team that can do the most amount of damage. With the recent addition of Benjamin “blameF” Bremer in January of 2019, he has shown that he has superpower potential in the future as both a In-game leader and a devastating Rifler. They have had a steady presence in the tier two teams and have the names to potentially make an underdog run in Sydney.
Ninjas in Pyjamas:
The Ninjas are always a dangerous opponent at any given event and the team has maintained their skill as a top ten team in the world. However, they have failed to impress at recent tournaments and this could be the turning point for them. The leadership of Lekr0 has allowed Fredrik "REZ" Sterner to finally show up to his potential that he once displayed. Patrik “f0rest” Lindberg has displayed moments of absolute brilliance and Christopher "GeT_RiGhT" Alesund has the occasional moment in which he turns back the years. Dennis “dennis” Edman’s return to the team could be a catalyst for improved results after his time off due to burnout. With the short change between dennis and William “draken” Sundin, I do not really see how NiP will perform. I can potentially see NiP make a deep run as they occasionally seem to do.
Last of all, we have Grayhound Gaming who surprised many by reaching the IEM Katowice Major back in February. While they failed to win a single match during the New Challenger’s stage, the experience they gained from reaching the coveted international tournament has elevated their game to a new level. With star players Erdenetsogt "erkaSt" Gantulga, Chris "dexter"' Nong and good old Oliver "DickStacy" Tierney, Grayhound can prove to be a surprise package at this LAN. Last year, Grayhound proved to be a surprise package where they stunned eventual Grand Finalists SK Gaming in a Best of Three win. Grayhound, out of any international teams, have the best chance at repeating their last performance at Sydney and producing an upset. Grayhound is ready to roll and is in my eyes the best chance that OCE has in Sydney. Although they lost 0-3 in the New Challenger’s stage, they learnt plenty of lessons from playing against some of the best teams in the world,and have taken those lessons back to Australia. With players like Erdenetsogt "erkaSt" Gantulga, Chris "dexter"' Nong and good old Oliver "DickStacy" Tierney , Grayhound are never the team to look past in any tournament. Last year, Grayhound was able to take out the potential Grand-Finalists in SK-Gaming, in a 2:1 series win. In my honest opinion, Grayhound has the best chance at competing with the other international teams due to their run at the Major, as well as the experience of dexter during his time with Winterfox in NA. Grayhound is ready to roll and is in my eyes the best chance that OCE has in Sydney.
This is my rundown for IEM Sydney, and I hope it is a good showing for Counter-Strike in all facets and ways. I just want to watch good Counter-Strike. If a team outside of this list shocks me and makes a run, all the more power to them. Us true blue Australians always love an underdog story.