If there’s one thing that fans can count on, its that the European closed qualifiers for ESL One Rio’s upcoming minor is going to be a long and grueling affair. But it’s also going to be absolutely amazing to watch.
Unlike the other regions, almost every team in Europe’s closed qualifiers are close in skill or have the potential to upset. Fans should thank their lucky stars that Valve hasn’t released the Pick’em Brackets for Rio yet.
There’s a potential gap in skill at the very top thanks for Fnatic’s innate talent, but while many have written them into a top spot at Europe’s Rio qualifiers, the Ninjas in Pyjamas, a surging Dignitas, and a feisty OG stand in their way.
Seeing Fnatic participate in a closed Minor qualifier is an odd feeling considering their pedigree. There’s also the fact that the team was on fire in the latter half of 2019 while picking up the win at DreamHack Masters Malmo and three second-place finishes at StarSeries Season 8, ECS Season 8, and the EPL Season 10 Finals.
Now they might actually be in a tough spot. The European scene has bloomed in the past three months, and Fnatic’s new logo might not be enough to help then fight through the teams that look better every second they’re on the server.
Well, it looks like everyone was wrong about OG. The entire Counter-Strike: Global Offensive community collectively wondered about OG’s three-IGL strategy as the organization entered CSGO with Nathan “NBK-” Schmitt, Aleksi “Aleksib” Virolainen, and Valdemar “Valde” Bjørn on the team. Aleksib’s comments this weekend at the Flashpoint qualifiers revealed that both he and NBK have traded the IGL role back and forth, but it’s the former-ENCE player’s show now, as it should be.
In short, Aleksib is the complete package. While OG lacks tactical T-side depth on some of their maps, that sort of team cohesion comes with time.
Keep it simple, they always say. Aleksib has done just that, and he’s done it by letting himself off the leash. The first man into almost every site his team hits, the young IGL’s stats don’t always look that great. But if fans pay close attention to how he plays, its a masterpiece.
Aleksib acts like an entry-fragger (26.7% of OG’s opening kill attempts), a support player (with the highest enemy flash percentage on OG), all while herding OG to surprising wins while still having the courage to tell the Counter-Strike veterans NBK and Valde to essentially shut it when required.
Check out what happened behind the scenes last weekend during OG’s matchup against Evil Geniuses:
Not only does Aleksib feel secure enough to assert his position as the de facto leader of OG, but both NBK and Valde have fallen in line behind him. Every other team at the qualifiers should be worried. Mark our words; OG is a solid bet to make it very deep into this tournament despite OG’s close loss to EG last weekend.
Ninjas in Pyjamas
Prior to Patrick “f0rest” Lindberg’s reunion with his former teammates on Dignitas, we noted that this NiP roster lacked the leadership to manage a trying tournament without f0rest’s guiding hand. Last weekend’s Blast Premier showed us just how much that missing leadership means coming into ESL One Rio’s closed Minor qualifiers.
Fans can chalk up the Ninjas losses to a strong FaZe team that happens to be clicking at the moment. While NiP managed to defeat MIBR 2-1, right now the Brazillian squad can’t execute its way out of a wet paper bag. Finally, NiP had the unfortunate luck to meet Team Liquid in the lower bracket finals, losing 2-0 and booking a ticket to BLAST’s last chance showdown.
NiP would’ve lost against teams that are just not as good as MIBR when they’re at full strength, and they’re not ready for the level of competition that TL and FaZe bring to the table. The Ninjas’ matchmaking strats and the SG 553 are the only reason that the Ninjas even managed to bring TL into overtime on map two.
Fans have responded well to the former Ninjas’ reunion and Dignitas’ return to CSGO competition so far. In return, DIG has supplied fans with some decent Counter-Strike, starting off slow but finishing strong at the first European open qualifier and taking first place over Sprout with a 2-1 win.
Despite playing with one another for years, Christopher “GeT_RiGhT” Alesund, Adam “friberg” Frieberg, Richard “Xizt” Landström, and f0rest looked unfamiliar with one another during the open qualifier. That’s bound to happen, and it’s a real possibility that their honeymoon period gets even better before the roster lands somewhere in the middle.
Regardless, it’s a great time for Counter-Strike fans, especially those that have been around long enough to remember these players at their prime. Just seeing them on a server together is good enough for most.
GODSENT is riding a wave of decent results that since the end of 2019 that bode well for the organization’s 2020. While the team struggles against top tier rosters, they’re more than likely able to beat teams underneath them in the rankings. They have a decent chance of making it to the Minors with their current roster, they just need to find a way to upset their more studied opponents.
They’ll join teams like MAD Lions, Team Heroic, and BIG Clan alongside eight other teams when they go head between March 7 and March 8 for the ESL One closed Minor qualifiers.