At long last Star ladder i-League’s group stage in Kiev has come to a close, thus locking eight teams in to the final play-off bracket. It’s been a whirlwind for sure and with more than a few upsets and surprises to boot. There has been a lot to cover over these past few days so for simplicity’s sake here are a few of my personal highlights.
- G2’s “super team” making a hell of an entrance going 3-0 in the group stage. With dominant wins again Ninjas in Pyjamas, Hellraisers and SK Gaming the best French players finally sick of losing all the time show that banding together to form this beautiful team, that holds the likes of Shox and KennyS, are a team to be afraid of.
- Na’vi finally posting results after a series of disappointments in previous tournaments. When s1mple (deemed by some as the most mechanically gifted player in the world) joined the squad almost 6 months ago many people thought this team would instantly become worlds number one, however even after winning ESL NY back in November they have yet to produce any decent results. This dominating 3-0 group stage follows after long time hero Starix decided to step down as coach. Needless to say his replacement in Andi seems to be paying off well so far.
- CLG making the play offs. This sure was a surprise, many wrote off the North American squad in this tournament, the odds were definitely stacked against them but they managed to pull through with wins against Gambit and Immortals (and even knocking both of those teams out in the process). However their luck may be running dry with Astralis waiting for them in the quarter-finals.
- Fnatic returning to old form. Fnatic definitely had the hardest group stage by far having to go against the likes of Na’vi, Astralis and Virtus Pro. Following their recent reformation of their early 2016 roster these guys are determined to get results this tournament, born winners hate to lose and they sure did look confident taking out the Polish powerhouse Virtus Pro 16-2 and even more giddy after their thorough smashing of their fellow Swedes in NIP.
- Asian teams make a statement. Now even though the three Asian teams that entered this tournament all bombed out pretty hard, they definitely showed us what they are capable of. It was a pretty interesting experience watching these teams play as they almost certainly have the aim to keep up with the greatest teams from the dominant region of Europe but definitely lack the confidence, structure and experience to go toe to toe with the best
- World greats fall again. For the second time in two consecutive tournaments both the second and the third best teams in the world in Virtus Pro and SK Gaming respectively (according to HLTV) have been eliminated in the group stage. With both SK Gaming’s eliminations following the player swap with Immortals, which oversaw clutch master FNX being swapped out for the aggressive youngster Felps. A lot of eyebrows have been raised towards the move that hasn’t seem to help either parties now both of them have been eliminated at these early stages of the tournament. On the other side of the fence; who knows what’s going on with Virtus Pro. They are pretty hot and cold following their second place finish at the Eleague Major and first place at Dreamhack Masters Vegas at the beginning of the year.
This weekend we get to see who will take the trophy and the $125,000 grand prize. At this point in time, it could be anyone’s game. Results like this really show us why many of the industry’s top analysts and personalities are calling this the most competitive era of Counterstrike we’ve ever had and it’s even more exciting for us at home watching. To all the teams competing tomorrow, I wish you good luck and here’s to an exciting weekend of more great Counterstrike.
The action kicks off with G2 vs FaZe Clan tomorrow morning at 9:00 CEST. See below for more info: