Though it wasn’t elegant, the Finland’s top Counter-Strike team got the job done in Katowice.
What this series said about their chances there is up for debate.
The first frame, Dust 2, started in ugly fashion for Winstrike. Despite playing on its own map of choice, Winstrike struggled with grenade placement while Aleksi “allu” Jalli tore the CIS team apart with exceptional AWP work. This frustrated Winstrike to the point that they began making more basic errors, highlighted by a sequence in which Jan “wayLander” Rahkonen forgot to reload his rifle and handed two free kills to ENCE. Winstrike pulled it together in the second half but didn’t come close to the win, ceding the game 16-11.
ENCE got a taste of their own medicine on the second map, Mirage. Winstrike dominated the first half, scoring 13 rounds as ENCE struggled to find any kills. ENCE went down swinging in the next half but still got handed a decisive 16-7 loss.
Deciding map Train saw ENCE settle down and leverage the CT side for a dominant 14-1 first half, with 16-year-old Jere “sergej” Salodrivin turning heads with one of the most impressive clutch rounds of the event. Winstrike gave little margin for error in the second half and while Winstrike managed to make ENCE sweat with a strong rally, it ultimately fell short at 16-13.
Though ENCE walks away with the victory, there were mixed messages sent here about how the team could fare in the next phase of the tournament.
During the New Challengers Stage ENCE proved itself to be one of the most mechanically gifted teams, with each player posting big moments. Allu’s performance on Dust 2 and Sergej’s best moments on Train would likely frustrate any opposition.
But when ENCE was slumping, it was a deep slump that lasted for extended periods of time. The Finnish side will need to shake that habit when it starts coming up against top competition.