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CS:GO

Stories to Watch at the IEM Rio Major Challengers Stage

Zakaria Almughrabi

The IEM Rio Major begins on October 31st with the Challengers Stage. A total of 24 teams will be fighting for a chance at Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s biggest prize—the Major trophy. The eight Challengers and Contenders are up first, with only the top eight earning a spot in the next stage. Who has what it takes to make a splash at CS:GO’s most prestigious tournament?

IEM Rio Major

Image Copyright ESL | Adela Sznajder

IEM Major Rio Challengers Stage Teams

Challengers

Contenders

OG Team Vitality Team GamerLegion Outsiders
Evil Geniuses Cloud9 00 Nation FURIA Esports
BIG Bad News Eagles Fnatic IHC Esports
MOUZ 9z Team Imperial Esports Grayhound Gaming

Vitality Look to Assert Themselves

With how stacked the European RMR B side was, and only three Legends spots to boot, there was bound to be a couple notable teams forced to start in the Challengers Stage. Team Vitality was one of those teams.

After losing a best-of-one to BIG, the defending ESL Pro League S16 champions lost their shot at an easy Legends spot. They were then forced into a three-way tiebreaker with Heroic and OG. In the end, Heroic reigned supreme and earned the last ticket to the Legends Stage, leaving the rest to wallow with the commoners.

This Vitality roster had a tough start to 2022, failing to earn any notable results for the first five months. Suddenly in June, Vitality managed to make their first grand final appearance with their half-Vitality half-Astralis roster at the BLAST Spring Finals. Seeing that they were so close to consistent relevancy, Vitality made a big off-season move, acquiring ENCE’s star rifler Lotan “Spinx” Gilaldi.

This move turned out to be exactly what Vitality needed, adding key fire power and aggression to the team. Just one month after the summer break ended, Vitality won their first trophy of 2022 at ESL Pro League. Now, they’re looking to keep the momentum going at the Major.

In addition to Spinx, Vitality has French phenom Matthieu “ZywOo” Herbaut coming off his best performance in a long time at Pro League. And with the Major-proven Astralis core of Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen, Emil “Magisk” Reif, and coach Danny “zonic” Sørensen, Vitality is certainly a team to watch.

 

Strong European Sides

If there’s one thing we learned via the RMR tournaments, it’s that no team is safe from being upset in best-of-ones. Plenty of teams in the European side made some surprising levels of impact. While eight spots in the Legends Stage for 16 teams seems like a heavy cutoff, it’s also enough for multiple lesser-known squads to make their way through.

The three EU teams that have a decent chance of just making the cut are Fnatic, Team GamerLegion, and Bad News Eagles. Fnatic as an organization are no strangers to Majors. That said, they haven’t been able to make a splash at one in many years. The original all-Swedish lineup is long gone, replaced with a mix of European players.

Their latest round of roster swaps landed fairly well in their initial showings. The addition of Nico “nicodoz” Tamjidi, Fredrik “roeJ” Jørgensen, and Dion “FASHR” Derksen has helped turn Fnatic from an afterthought to a roster that is genuinely able to contest some of the best teams. The same is true of GamerLegion.

This mixed European squad was incredibly close to a much better placement at the RMR. Unfortunately, overtime losses to FaZe and Spirit relegated them to a 3-2 at best. One of those surprising BO3 wins came against G2 Esports. In an elimination match, GamerLegion managed to take down G2, knocking the prestigious org out of contention.

In a different vein, Bad News Eagles has been with the same roster for the whole year. The team, primarily made up of players from Kosovo, surprised everyone by making top sixteen at PGL Major Antwerp. BNE’s most notable win in the RMR came against Astralis, destroying the Danish side 16-3 on Ancient. Underestimating BNE just because they’re not a tier one staple is a big mistake.

Brazilians Bring the Heat at Rio

As this is CS:GO’s first Major in Brazil, it’s no doubt that both the players and fans of the host nation will be more hyped than ever before. We know how much Brazil loves Counter-Strike, so expect the crowd to be louder than ever before—especially when FURIA, 00 Nation, and Imperial are on the stage.

All three Brazilian teams that qualified for the IEM Rio Major did so as Contenders. While Contenders aren’t really different from Challengers (barring initial seeding), it’s unusual to not see a single BR squad earning a top three finish in the Americas RMR.

The usual suspects that compete at the top of the region, FURIA, took a very unfortunate loss to Evil Geniuses in the best-of-ones. Still, they easily crushed their regional competition of Infinity Esports, O PLANO, and paiN Gaming for a 3-1 record overall.

As for recent international results, FURIA did have an impressive top four at IEM Dallas in June. A top eight at IEM Cologne followed, but they did find wins over Outsiders and Team Spirit during their run before being narrowly eliminated by Team Liquid before playoffs. FURIA are definitely gunning for a spot in the Legends Stage, and with the crowd fully behind them, it’s hard to imagine FURIA falling short.

00 Nation and Imperial on the other hard are much longer shots for advancement. Both teams are filled with Brazilian fan favorite players like Marcelo “coldzera” David and Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo respectively. There’s plenty of top-level experience on both squads, the question is if they can put everything together for three wins. We did see Imperial pull it off at PGL Major Antwerp, so it’s definitely possible. One thing’s for sure though, the Last Dance will be one that the CS:GO world won’t soon forget.