• Ashlynn "Valkenn" Brady

ESL One Cologne Preview

ESL One Cologne has been going strong since 2014 and is almost always one of the most stacked events of the year. With 16 of the best teams in the world attending there is a lot of intense competition and every single game that gets played has the fans on their feet roaring. It is being held in the historic Lanxess Arena with a prize pool of $300k. From underdogs like BIG and ENCE trying to prove they are ready to play with the big boys to teams like MIBR and Cloud9 trying to redeem themselves this will be one of the most exciting events of the year. Today I will be sharing with you five teams that you should be looking out for during this next week of intense counter strike.

MiBR, the new Brazilian Powerhouse?

In recent years, Cologne has been a huge stomping ground for the Brazilian teams. The last two years have been won by two variations of the old SK lineups that both consisted of three core players; Gabriel 'FalleN' Toledo, Marcelo ‘coldzera’ David, and Fernando ‘fer’ Alvarenga. These three are arguably the best Brazilians to ever touch the game, however things have changed drastically since their win in Cologne last year and they need to prove themselves here if they want to continue being considered a top 10 team in the world.

Since the addition of Jake ‘Stewie2K’ Yip as well as the transition of IGL role to coldzera, the team has only had three top-five finishes at the LAN events they have attended. Two of those being wins at events with opponents well below their skill level, and their most recent 4th place finish at ESL Belo Horizonte wasn't actually as impressive as it seemed. They got 2-0 by Space Soldiers and Mouz, only grabbing a win over Ghost as well as in a rematch against SS. For a lineup that is as star-studded as this one, the results have been well below expectations.

Maybe now that they no longer have the stress of transitioning into a new org on their shoulders things will be different, especially since they have been able to take the past two and a half weeks off to practice. From map pool, individual form, as well as their new IGL this lineup is a very big question mark and hopefully here in Cologne some of our questions will be answered.

Mousesports and Snax

The past few days have been very chaotic for the mixed EU team, they went from benching Martin ‘STYKO’ Styk to picking up Virtus Pro superstar Janusz ‘Snax’ Pogorzelski in a move that shocked a majority of the CS:GO community. Snax is a very well known player and when on form can be the difference between a win or a loss, but recently he has been performing well below the Major-winning level we saw from him a few years ago. Coming into Mouz, he will be attempting to take over the support role that STYKO left behind.

Compared to STYKO sure he has better stats individually, even with the rare form he and his ex-team VP had been in. However this is not a role that many people would peg Snax for taking on, and my guess is that he was not their first choice as a replacement. Considering how recently this change took place, keeping Jordan ‘n0thing’ Gilbert for one more event would've been the better option especially since he managed to help them finish second at ESL One Belo Horizonte. At the same time though, bringing in a legend like Snax will help the team out in the long run. Especially if he can bounce back from his last year or so on VP.

Even if he can't transition nicely into the support role, he will be bringing a lot of firepower and experience to the team. The EU mix has already proven they can play without their own AWPer so playing without a 100% support player should be a walk in the park. However there's a lot more competition at this event and if Snax doesn't show up individually I doubt that Mouz can make another run for the grand final.

Cloud9 and Styko

The Boston Major winners have been a complete and utter mess since the beginning of this year. The loss of Jake ‘Stewie2K’ Yip and the addition of Pujan ‘FNS Mehta didn't work out in their favor either, seeing as they dropped the IGL after using him for just four events. The American team will be seeking redemption and trying to defend their second place finish from Cologne last year.

The process of picking up Martin ‘STYKO’ Styk was quite the mess, C9 went well beyond the deadline for completing their roster. Luckily for the org, the young player had just been dropped by Mousesports and was more than willing to sub in for the time being. STYKO has received a lot of criticism in his career, some of it deserved but a lot of it not. He may not have the flashiest stats, but in terms of being a support player he fills the shoes quite nicely. The only problem with this pick up is that the NA team is still lacking the firepower that they had with Stewie2K, as well as a permanent IGL.

It will be interesting to see how Cloud9 approaches this event, especially with a new player being added to their roster at the last minute. I am assuming that Tarik "tarik" Celik will be used as their IGL but this is something he has expressed distaste for in the past. Right now the team is in chaos and I doubt that STYKO is the answer to their problems. This roster is already looking like a lost cause and going out in groups here may be the last straw.

The New French Super team

With EnVyUs taking a step away from CS:GO for the time being, this new G2 lineup is quite literally the French scenes last hope. With the return of Richard 'shox' Papillon from injury, and Edouard 'SmithZz' Dubourdeaux re-entrance into the pro scene, their lineup is a big wild card. Especially since both of these players have not been playing for quite some time at a pro level. Despite having one of the best AWPers in the world and all around the best French players possible, we have seen these “superteams” fail time and time again. However with G2 being the last big French team in the world, the stakes are quite a bit higher than before.

We saw the teams first debut at the ECS Season 5 Finals where they finished 6th overall, marking their best LAN finish since StarSeries Season 4. They only won one Bo3 against Luminosity and got destroyed by NRG, but they managed to put up a pretty good showing against Faze. Especially since this was their first event as a group, getting double digits against one of the best teams in the world is no easy task. The team still has a lot of work to do, and ESL Cologne is going to give us a good idea of how far this superteam is going to go.

Since the ECS finals, SmithZz and his team have been bootcamping. Now that they have had time to work together as a team as well as expand on their map pool we can finally see what they are made of. How they will perform is a big question mark, and the French superteam curse is still looming above their heads. A event like this would be the perfect way to ease peoples worries for the Frenchies.

The Finnish Underdogs

This Finnish roster has been together for several months now and has put up some very impressive results since then. The most notable player, Aleksi 'allu' Jalli, has managed to put together a promising lineup of young players. Most recently the team managed to snag a spot at the upcoming EU Minor, losing only two of the games they played. However Cologne is a completely different beast to tackle, especially since they will be starting out against Astralis.

They may be an underdog, but they are not a team to be underestimated. Since forming this lineup has only lost six games, beating the likes of AVANGAR, AGO, Japaleno, and Sprout in convincing fashion. This is the perfect opportunity for the team to prove their worth, they have never played at this level of CS:GO before and even winning one game would be a huge victory. Besides allu, this will also be the first time the players have attended a huge LAN event.

The pressure will be on for these underdogs, and if they want to start making a name for themselves they need to show us what they are capable of here. It will be a long and hard road, but also something that the young Finnish players have been preparing for. If you are looking for a good underdog team to follow in Cologne, these guys are definitely at the top of the list.


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