Some of the less-heralded teams on the CS:GO scene will battle for supremacy at the Champions Cup Finals in Malta from December 19-22. Star names like Astralis, Team Liquid, Fnatic, Evil Geniuses, mousepsorts and NaVi are not heading to St Julian’s to compete in the $300,000 tournament. That provides some of the other Tier 1 teams with a tantalizing opportunity to seize some precious silverware. These are the leading contenders for the trophy:
The Finnish team shocked the CS:GO community by axing in-game leader Aleksib and replacing him with sunNy in August. It followed a top-eight finish at the Berlin Starladder Major, and it seemed like a dramatic response to a slight downturn in form. ENCE blazed a trail of destruction throughout the Tier 2 scene in the second half of 2018, and Aleksib, Sergej, Aerial, xseveN, and Allu went all the way to the final of the Katowice Major. By May 2019, they were firmly established as heavyweights on the CS:GO scene, as they beat Astralis and ended the Danish team’s 31-game unbeaten record on Nuke, before securing a top-four place at CS Summit 4 and then finishing runners-up at DreamHack Dallas.
Results went slightly south in the summer and ENCE made the decision to kick Aleksib. It was a bold move, as all of their play flowed through him. They brought in another Finn, sunNy, to replace him, but they struggled to recapture the magic of the Aleksib era. They finished fifth at BLAST Moscow, lost in the group stages of ESL New York, and could only finish 9-12th at DreamHack Malmo. Yet they showed signs of improvement at the CS:GO Asia Championships in Shanghai last month, where they went to the final and lost 2-0 to Mousesports. They are now favorites to win at SBR top betting sites the Champions Cup Finals, and victory would give this franchise a massive confidence boost.
Furia also announced themselves as a force to be reckoned with by pulling off a pair of superb wins over Astralis, the world’s top-ranked team, this year. It rocked the CS:GO community and many heralded it as the end of the Danes’ era of dominance. Yet Astralis have since returned to the top of the world rankings after their win in Berlin, while Furia have not quite lived up to the hype.
They have secured a few wins this year – their biggest came at the Arctic Championship in September – but they are not really rated among the elite. Yuurih, arT, VINI, KSCERATO and HEN1 all signed long-term contracts this summer, keeping them at the franchise until 2024, and now it is time for them to deliver on their promise and become known as the top Brazilian CS:GO team. Victory in Malta would be a significant step in the right direction.
A three-year spell as an entirely French-speaking team came to an end in August for G2 Esports’ CS:GO roster. They signed nexa as their new in-game leader and brought in huNter as a rifler in order to revitalize the team’s fortunes. Nexa hails from Serbia and he is renowned for clutching rounds with his signature M4A4, while huNter comes from Bosnia & Herzegovina and offers flexible support play, so G2 Esports is now a pan-European collective. They will now be keen to clinch some silverware and they are third in the betting.
BIG have dropped down to 29th in the HLTV world rankings over the past month after a few poor results. However, you would not want to write off tabseN and co, as they can be devastating if they hit top form. TYLOO are ranked 23rd in the world, and they are also in the mix for this tournament after topping their group at the CS:GO Asia Championships last month. They faltered in the playoffs, but they showed glimmers of how dangerous they can be.
The other teams at the Champions Cup lie outside the top 30, and it will be interesting to see what emerging talent is coming up at Hard Legion, Team Spirit and Movistar Riders. There will be two groups of four, and the top two in each group advance to a single-elimination bracket, and all matches are best of three. It promises to be an entertaining tournament, and we could be in for an exciting final showdown between Furia and ENCE.