Cover photo by ESL.
As esports keep growing, major tournaments have become landmarks that punctuate the year by making fans look forward to the highest level of international competition. Some cities such as Katowice became recognized within esports for hosting some of the biggest and best tournaments time and time again. Probably the most well-known in the West would be Cologne. Home to ESL One, the German city is a CS:GO fan-favourite, having hosted the tournament every year since 2014 and producing a memorable event each time. 2018 is no different for the CS:GO scene as the fifth edition of ESL One Cologne will take place from the 3rd to the 8th of July 2018.
Following ESL One Belo Horizonte that will run from June 13-17, ESL One Cologne will involve 16 of the best teams in the world playing for a US$300,000 prize pool and will be the eleventh event of the Intel Grand Slam Season 1.
Of the 16 teams, here are the 11 that were directly invited to compete:
- FaZe Clan
- G2 Esports
- Team Liquid
- Natus Vincere
- Ninjas in Pyjamas
- SK Gaming
The big favourite for the tournament is the Danish squad from Astralis. Winners of two of the three last majors, only losing to FaZe Clan in the finals of IEM Sydney in early May, Astralis has been a rampant force in recent months. The team has been able to climb to the very top of the scene by playing a very fundamentally sound style of Counter-Strike and pushing the creativity with their use of grenades. This methodical and consistent style combined with a great use of utility has allowed the team to surpass other, more loose aggressive play-styles from the likes of FaZe by not giving their star players as much freedom. Other teams are likely to catch up and replicate the grenades Astralis have found so much success with, but their recent win at the ECS Season 5 finals, beating FaZe Clan and Team Liquid 2 – 0 in the process, seems to indicate they are still ahead of the opposition. Their AWPer Nicolai “Device” Reedtz reveived his sixth MVP award of all time thanks to his key performance throughout the tournament.
Another team people see taking the trophy home is FaZe Clan. Still not competing with Olofmeister as their fifth and with Xizt signing back to Fnatic as their IGL, the team has brought in 23 years-old Norwegian player Jørgen "cromen" Robertsen as a stand-in for ECS Season 5 finals in London and ESL One Belo Horizonte in Brazil. Cromen had been playing for Heroic before becoming a free agent and performed well at the ESL Season 7 finals in Dallas. While not at the same level as Olof, cromen showed he could fit well enough into the FaZe system for the team to remain competitive, losing only to Astralis in the semis at both ECS Season 5 finals and ESL Pro League Season 7. Whether he will still be playing with FaZe at Cologne remains to be determined but we sure hope for them that Olof will be back soon after Belo Horizonte so that the team can get back to practice with its full firepower. Nevertheless, FaZe remains one of the most dangerous teams in the world thanks to Håvard "rain" Nygaard, Nikola "NiKo" Kovač, and Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács as the best core trio.
Team Liquid will be a team to look out for at ESL One Belo Horizonte before they play in Cologne. Home to some of North America’s best talent, Liquid has had some very good results in their recent tournaments. Despite a very poor performance in Marseille back in April, Liquid picked it up and dominating the NA ESL Pro League Season 7 and managed to make finals of both ESL PL Season 7 and ECS Season 5 where they lost to Astralis. Capable of some crazy clutches to remain in a match, thanks to the likes of Twistzz, NAF or even TACO, Liquid definitely has the means to make finals in Brazil and top 4 in Cologne.
The final team I can see showing up at the tournament would be Na’Vi. It’s one hell of an advantage to have the best player in the world in your team, but if the rest of members don’t quite perform as they should, then you find yourself just short making finals. Since their top 2 finish at DreamHack Masters Marseille, Na’Vi has been shying away from finals, although they won Starseries & i-League Season 5 over NRG. Despite Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev being the best player in the world and perhaps of all time, Na’Vi hasn’t quite been able to put all the pieces together around its star player. That being said, the squad has some time to prepare before Cologne, and with several teams recovering from roster changes, they definitely have a shot at making a deep run.
Several of the other big name teams seem to be in quite an unstable state after roster changes and new pick ups so we'll have to see have they shape up leading up to Cologne.
The 5 other teams set to compete in Cologne, which earned their spot through qualification are:
- ENCE eSports (GG.BET Majestic)
- North (European Qualifier #1)
- Gambit Esports (European Qualifier #2)
- Renegades (North American Qualifier)
- B.O.O.T-dream[S]cape (Asian Qualifier)
Until then, the ESL One Belo Horizonte group stage are being played right now so tune in and make sure to check how your favourite team is doing.
Which team do you see making it all the way in Cologne? What team can create a surprise?
Let us know your thoughts below.