Putting Group A teams under scrutiny before ESL Pro League Season 17 gets underway.
ESL Pro League, the organizing body’s bi-annual month-long CSGO event, is about to begin. The tournament underwent a format change for this iteration, with 32 teams taking part instead of the old 24. These teams are divided into four groups, which — unlike the previous iteration — will involve a triple-elimination bracket system to filter out four teams and propel four others into the rather lengthy playoffs. For more information on the format and other details, read our tournament preview here.
With the matches taking place group by group, we thought it would be better to provide previews before each group takes center stage. Here’s everything you need to know about the teams in Group A.
The following teams make up the lineup for Group A, followed by information about each team:
- IHC Esports
- Evil Geniuses
- G2 Esports
- Eternal Fire
- Aleksei “Qikert” Golubev
- Dzhami “Jame” Ali
- Evgeniy “FL1T” Lebedev
- Aleksandr “KaiR0N-” Anashkin
- Pyotr “fame” Bolyshev
The CIS side hasn’t been able to show their best game since their Intel Extreme Masters Rio Major triumph, and although their Quarterfinals run at IEM Katowice was a big step up from their Group Stage exit at BLAST Premier World Final a couple of months before, they still look like they have a long way to go if they are to repeat their success in Brazil.
On the plus side, newcomer KaiR0N- seems to be just the kind of player they needed — brave, undaunted, and sharp as a tack. On the other hand, Qikert’s recent form has been tepid at best, and the Russian rifler will need to find his groove quickly. That being said, if Jame can find his form and work out some solid strategies, there’s no reason why Outsiders can’t make it to the Playoffs from this group — especially since they face the relatively inexperienced IHC Esports first up.
- Garidmagnai “bLitz” Byambasuren
- Sodbayar “Techno4K” Munkhbold
- Tuvshintugs “ANNIHILATION” Nyamdorj
- Baatarkhuu “Bart4k” Batbold
- Tengis “sk0R” Batjargal
After a terrific showing at IEM Katowice, where the underdog Mongolians managed to beat the likes of FURIA Esports, Cloud9 and paiN Gaming, many people will be watching these plucky youngsters. The world is theirs to conquer, and although they won’t have the element of surprise on their side anymore, they still have both their wits and skills. We certainly hope they’ve worked on their map pool, though.
Ask anyone who watched IHC’s matches and they’ll tell you just how dangerous pretty much all of the players have been, especially their prolific sniper ANNIHILATION. The other player to watch will be sk0R, who has put up the numbers time and again to take his team past some dangerous opponents. That being said, getting past Outsiders in the first round might be a tall order, so a drop into the Mid Bracket early on might be something that IHC has to deal with.
- Raphael “exit” Lacerda
- Matheus “Tuurtle” Anhaia
- Felipe “insani” Yuji
- Breno “brnz4n” Poletto
- Henrique “HEN1” Teles
The underachieving Brazilian squad has had a long history of ups and downs that dates back to the CS 1.6 days, but their last up was quite a while ago, and they’ll have to work extra hard if they want to make the Playoffs at this event. Despite bringing in a promising young gun in the form of insani, MIBR have continued to struggle at most events. Their first match will be against a rising Fnatic, and we can’t say we expect them to take that match.
Apart from insani, Tuurtle, exit and scene stalwart HEN1 all have plenty of potentials, but the only one who has been performing consistently out of the lot is the oldie. MIBR’s players seem to get lost somewhere whenever the pressure mounts, and in sharp contrast to IHC, they seem to be just a touch afraid of more famous, highly-skilled players. Nevertheless, their recent win over Complexity to secure a place at IEM Rio will undoubtedly boost their morale.
- Freddy “KRIMZ” Johansson
- William “mezii” Merriman
- Nico “nicoodoz” Tamjidi
- Fredrik “roeJ” Jørgensen
- Dion “FASHR” Derksen
A year ago, Fnatic was nothing special and most people would have written them off from qualification. Even in the last season of EPL they only managed to make it to the Quarterfinals. This year, with some fresh blood and a few decent results to pump them up, Fnatic are a much more formidable force. They had a relatively disappointing IEM Katowice, but we feel as though they could come back strong at this event.
It’s not unheard of in CSGO that bringing in new talent can help a team bounce back, but it usually takes a team longer to adjust than it has taken Fnatic. The addition of nicoodoz and roeJ helped the team out of some dark times, and with FASHR, Fnatic seem to have struck gold. The young rifler is a beast when in form, and he will be instrumental to the team if they are to make a long run. As for their first match against MIBR, we definitely favor the Swedes.
- Vladislav ”nafany” Gorshkov
- Dmitriy ”sh1ro” Sokolov
- Timur “buster” Tulepov
- Sergey ”Ax1Le” Rykhtorov
- Abai ”HObbit” Hasenov
Another CIS squad that has fallen on hard times, Cloud9’s recruitment of buster and their benching of Timofey “interz” Yakushin were moves that were questioned by fans at the time, and following their brutal premature ousting from Katowice, they are in a more vulnerable position than they have been in a long time. They’ll have to be very careful when playing EG, because the Americans are capable of pouncing on an opportunity should it be presented. If IHC were able to do it, so can EG.
While Ax1Le and sh1ro are still in excellent shape, and HObbit is still fiery from time to time, it’s the performance of IGL nafany that has most people asking how he deserves to stay on while interz gets sidelined. The IGL hasn’t just been failing to frag — his ideas and strategies have often failed to crack the defenses of some of the top teams, and failed to shut down the attacks of even lesser teams.
- Vincent “Brehze” Cayonte
- Jerric “wiz” Jiang
- Timothy “autimatic” Ta
- Jadan “HexT” Postma
- Sanjar “neaLaN” İshakov
When EG managed to beat Heroic at BLAST Premier Spring Groups, many may have thought that it was the start of something good for the Americans. However, things haven’t panned out as such, with the underperforming squad floundering time and again at both the aforementioned event and as early as the Play-In Stage in Katowice. It really does seem as though EG will need a miracle to make it to the Playoffs, but this is CSGO and stranger things have happened, and they’re up against a relatively weak Cloud9.
Freshly employed AWPer wiz has had his moments, but his impact isn’t as substantial as it needs to be. Meanwhile, 2018 Boston Major winner autimatic seems to have become a shadow of his former self, and Brehze, who was a force of nature during the Covid-19 induced online era, also fluctuates more than someone of his skill should..
- Nemanja “huNter-” Kovač
- Justin “jks” Savage
- Ilya “m0NESY” Osipov
- Nikola “NiKo” Kovač
- Rasmus “HooXi” Nielsen
What can we say about G2 that hasn’t already been said in the last few months? The team has risen from the ashes of failing to make it to even the qualifiers of the Rio Major to winning the BLAST World Final and Katowice in the space of two months while also qualifying for BLAST Premier Spring Final in between. The team hasn’t lost a series at a competitive level in months, and it doesn’t look like they have any intention of stopping any time soon.
While one could obviously point out the fact that HooXi’s fragging capabilities could do with some work — something we ourselves have done before — we feel that his contributions to the cerebral side of the game are worth his otherwise underperformance. Of course, that doesn’t mean that a little improvement wouldn’t make the team even more unbeatable, but with jks, m0NESY, NiKo and huNter- all at the top of their respective games, there’s room for a bit of relaxation for the Dane.
- İsmailcan “XANTARES” Dörtkardeş
- Yasin “xfl0ud” Koç
- Ömer “imoRR” Karataş
- Engin “MAJ3R” Küpeli
- Buğra “Calyx” Arkın
The only Turkish team to make it to the event, Eternal Fire are a weird one to gauge. Sure, they haven’t had a solid performance in quite a while, but they do have the tendency to punch above their weight when it is least expected. Last EPL, they beat eventual tournament Runners-up Team Liquid, and they recently won the CCT Central Europe Malta Finals over Bad News Eagles, so they certainly won’t be pushovers. However, G2 are just something else right now, and it won’t be surprising if the Turks get bulldozed.
If EF are to have anything of a chance against the current number 1 team in the world, star player XANTARES must play out of his mind. He’ll need all the help he can get from his teammates, especially the experienced imoRR and MAJ3R, but he’s the player with the most top-level experience on the squad, and he has to lead by example.
Stay tuned for a ton of more ESL Pro League 17 content as the tournament progresses, and check out our wide variety of guides, recaps, analyses and more.