16 teams begin, but only 8 will go through to the Legends Stage
The second of CSGO’s biannual Majors, the Intel Extreme Masters Rio Major, is about to get under way, and all eyes are on the 24 teams competing. Before we move on to the 8 that await in the Legends Stage, the 16 teams who qualified to the Challenger Stage of the tournament are all set to take center stage as they duke it out to win 3 matches as quickly as possible.
Although predictions in any sport are a difficult thing to get right, we’re trying our hand at forecasting which 8 teams will climb up and out of this group, and we’ll also predict the winners of the first round of matchups — which have already been determined. The 16 teams that will play the Challengers Stage are as follows:
- Team Vitality
- Evil Geniuses
- Bad News Eagles
- 9z Team
- Team GamerLegion
- 00 Nation
- FURIA Esports
- IHC Esports
- Imperial Esports
- Grayhound Gaming
Challenger Stage Predictions
As much as we would like for it to be otherwise, not all the teams mentioned above are at the same level. Some teams undoubtedly have an edge above the rest — or at least most of the rest. Here’s how we think the top 8 are going to look at the end of the five rounds.
The CIS boys representing their American organization have had some relatively disappointing results as of late, with their short-lived stay in the Legends Stage arguably being the low point of their year. However, they went within a hair of the Grand Final of ESL Pro League 16, and we feel that they’ve worked out most of the issues with the team and are ready to make a deep run.
While Legends Stage teams might give them a run for their money, the only teams we see giving them any real trouble in the Challenger Stage are Fnatic, Vitality, Outsiders, and FURIA. Although they face Fnatic first up, we don’t think the Swedes have it in them to beat the might of C9.
2. FURIA Esports
South America’s finest is one of the most unpredictable, mercurial teams in the history of CS as a whole. On any given day, they can beat the strongest of teams and proceed to lose to unlikely underdogs. That being said, we think they’re going to ace the Challengers Stage, especially given the incredible form of Kaike “KSCERATO” Cerato in the last big tournament.
Their first matchup is against BIG, and the German side has been in awful form as of late. They used to be a powerhouse up until late last year, but something happened to them once offline events became the norm, and they’re still struggling to find solid footing in the current scene. FURIA should be able to bulldoze past them and any other opponents they might face.
3. Evil Geniuses
Now, we know this is a controversial pick, but EG has been in exceptional form as of late. The addition of Sanjar “neaLaN” İshakov (and more importantly seems to have done wonders, and their players seem to have found newfound strength and determination.
The fact that EG are set to face IHC Esports to begin their campaign is another reason we’ve put them this high up. The Chinese side is decent within their region, but they have had little or no exposure to Western teams and will most likely be out of their depth.
With the addition of Polish youngster Maciej “F1KU” Miklas and Czech talent Adam “NEOFRAG” Zouhar, OG have gone from being a potent but underperforming side to a real threat to the best of teams. While they still lack the maturity and cohesion of more experienced teams, they make up for this with raw firepower and the energy of youth.
Like EG, they also shouldn’t have much trouble disposing of their first-round opponents Grayhound Gaming — an Australian outfit who made it through to the tournament from the Lower Bracket of the Asia-Pacific RMR.
5. Team Vitality
The French team is currently ranked number 1 on the HLTV rankings for CSGO teams. On paper, they seem to have everything they need — experience, hardcore shooters, strats — but they still somehow haven’t quite hit their full stride yet. They will most likely drop a game before they make it through.
Vitality’s first matchup is against Imperial, and although the Brazilian side haven’t exactly been poster boys for consistency, they could spring up a surprise in true South-American-CSGO style.
Depending on what brand of CSGO you enjoy playing/watching, Outsiders will either be one of the most painfully slow or discerningly strategic teams you see. Nevertheless, they have just about enough firepower to push them through despite some struggle.
Outsiders are set to face the unpredictable MOUZ on their first Bo1. The multinational side showed plenty of brilliance when they first got their current roster together, but they have fallen on harder times lately as other teams have figured out their style. Between them and Outsiders, it all depends on who has the momentum.
Another team that showed some real promise recently only to fizzle out afterwards. Fnatic are nevertheless a very powerful side that’s yet to find their mojo. The formerly all-Swedish side now has just one player from the clan’s country of origin, but their exciting style of play still makes them a team to watch and support.
Given that their first match is against Cloud9, they will undoubtedly struggle. However, with a little luck, they’ll get the matchups they need to pull through and get into the Legends Stage.
8. 00 Nation
Starring double Major-winners Marcelo “coldzera” David and Epitácio “TACO” de Melo, the promising Brazilian squad with their Argentine AWPer is our last pick for the qualifying Challenger Stage teams. This is a team that relies heavily on both momentum and individual players having good games, but they eke out some good results despite their weaknesses.
Locking horns with Bad News Eagles in the first round, one would fancy the might of 00 Nation over the clan based in Kosovo. BNE had a great run in the Challengers Stage last time around, but their recent results do not inspire confidence, and we think 00 Nation will take full advantage of any weaknesses their opponents have.
Keep an eye on our CSGO section for daily recaps of the Rio Major, and join us again after the Challenger Stage for our Legends Stage predictions.