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CS:GO

Stories to Watch at ESL Pro League S16 Group D Edition

Zakaria Almughrabi

The ESL Pro League S16 Group Stage concludes with Group D. Starting on September 21, the final group of six teams will compete for the last three playoff spots, and a first-round bye for the top finisher. The previous Group C was full of upsets. Group D will likely have its fair share of competition as well.

ESL Pro League S16 Group D

Image Copyright ESL | Adela Sznajder

ESL Pro League S16 Group D Participants

Cloud9 Movistar Riders Team Liquid
FURIA Esports Evil Geniuses Eternal Fire

 

Cloud9 Stake their Claim

Cloud9 are coming into Group D as a likely pick to advance to playoffs. If that seems conservative, it’s because this group really is unpredictable for a number of reasons. What we know about Cloud9 is that the team has a pair of strong showings this year, but also a pair of disappointing finishes. The former Gambit Esports side has only attended four events in 2022 up to this point.

Their first-place finish at IEM Dallas sparked hope that Cloud9 would be able to return to consistent championship contending form. One month later at IEM Cologne, they bombed out in 9th-12th place at the hands of Team Liquid. Here at ESL Pro League S16, this is now the first gameplay we’ll see from Cloud9 in over two months.

The roster and coaching are exactly the same, the question is going to be about form. We know that Cloud9 have star power with Dmitriy” sh1ro” Sokolov at AWP and Sergey “Ax1le” Rykhtorov leading the charge. By this point, the once Gambit Youngsters have multiple years of experience under their belt as well. Cloud9 can easily challenge for first place in Group D. They’ll need to overcome some tough competition to do it though.

Movistar Ride into Town

The biggest surprise of the first half of 2022 was the meteoric rise of Movistar Riders at IEM Cologne. The Spanish roster accomplished a placement that no Spanish roster had done before. Their top four finish helped to skyrocket them into a top 10 ranking on HLTV. Currently, they’re rated astoundingly as the fifth best team in the world, the org’s highest rank ever.

However, Movistar was dealt a huge blow during the player break. Star AWPer Alvaro “SunPayus” Garcia was bought out by ENCE. SunPayus was a huge piece to Movistar’s success at IEM Cologne, and the hole that he’ll be leaving behind is massive. The replacement that Movistar has found is Antonio “Martinez” Sánchez.

Now that they’ll be fielding a young, untested AWPer against some of the best in the world, it will be interesting to see if Movistar can continue to show brilliance. While their form leading up to and at IEM Cologne would suggest that this team could be consistently great, the notion that they were a one-hit wonder hangs in the balance until proven otherwise.

 

Liquid’s Resurgence Continues

North America’s darlings, Team Liquid, have been back on the rise over 2022. While the team did have a notable drop off in the preceding year, the changes to the squad and their coaching crew seems to have done the trick. Now, Liquid is ranked as a top 3 team in the world according to HLTV for the first time since early 2020.

Over half of Liquid’s players are still leftover from the Grand Slam winning squad in 2019. The bigger story is the new additions that have helped them rise back up. Joshua “oSee” Ohm is incredibly talented and has what it takes to be a top AWPer in the world. Liquid is also currently loaning star rifler Mareks “YEKINDAR” Gaļinskis from Virtus.pro, although he might as well already be part of the team.

This roster is full of nothing if not potential. And they’ve shown that potential as recently as BLAST Fall Groups, where Liquid qualified with wins over G2 Esports, Complexity Gaming, Ninjas in Pyjamas, and Heroic. Even before that, Liquid qualified for the IEM Cologne Playoffs, but were unfortunately bounced by Movistar in the quarters. They’ll be looking for revenge here in Group D, as well as first seed.

FURIA Bring the Heat

If there is one team in Counter-Strike that can change the dynamic of a group, it’s FURIA. The top Brazilian team in the world is notorious for having one of the most aggressive playstyles out there. Couple that with the ESL Pro League format of five games in five days, and you get wild swing matchups in every which way.

FURIA hasn’t exactly been contending for titles recently, but they’ve been getting pretty close to it.  Their highlights of the year so far include top four finishes at ESL Pro League S15 and IEM Dallas. They also made top eight at IEM Cologne and the PGL Major Antwerp, the latter of which was a playoff berth at the biggest tournament in CS:GO.

FURIA is one of those teams that should never be underestimated, lest they pounce on you and take the victory. Group D is by no means a walk in the park for any team here. As for Brazil’s last hope to get a team though to playoffs, FURIA also have their work cut out for them. They’ll need to stay creative and aggressive for an entire week if they want to repeat their previous Pro League performance.

 

EG and EF Round it Out

The final two teams in Group D are Evil Geniuses and Eternal Fire. The former is a team that many are familiar with, as they performed as one of NA’s top dogs in years past. Recently, EG has been more of a spectator rather than a player in the global CS:GO scene. After the disaster that was the Stewie2K/maLek situation, in June of this year, EG committed to a three-sister team setup.

The team that EG is currently fielding at Pro League is made of remnants from their original lineup, as well as move-ups from their second team and recent CIS signing Sanjar “neaLaN” İshakov. We haven’t seen anything from this core to suggest that they’ll be competing for a top three seed. At best, EG can at least show up and be competitive in such a top-heavy group.

As for Eternal Fire, this is an all-Turkish team that features some of the best players ever from the nation, such as İsmailcan “XANTARES” Dörtkardeş and Özgür “woxic” Eker. This team has actually been together for a bit now. Their biggest achievement is a top eight at Roobet Cup in June, which did feature a win over MOUZ (who just won Group C).

Honestly, EF are a likelier candidate for advancement than EG. Does that mean they’ll actually do it? Signs point to no. Still, we’ve seen what underestimated sixth seeds can do at Pro League. One of them did just deny Astralis a playoff spot after all.


ESL Pro League S16 Group D begins on September 21 at 6:30 A.M ET. The initial matchups are:

Cloud9 vs Evil Geniuses

Eternal Fire vs FURIA Esports

Team Liquid vs Movistar Riders