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Article by Tomi "lurppis" Kovanen
The fifth CS:GO major is days away as the world’s best teams are soon starting their travel to Poland for ESL One Katowice 2015, where the new world champions and winners of $250,000 will be crowned after four days of play, beginning this Thursday.
16 of the world’s best teams are present, including the top eight finishers from the previous major, DreamHack Winter 2014. Joining them are eight teams from the offline qualifier, which also took place in Katowice, a month ago.
In this preview we’ll focus on the absolute best teams present in Katowice. For a longer preview featuring all sixteen squads, head over to HLTV.org for their ESL One Katowice 2015 coverage, including interviews with every team in attendance.
Sweden (flusha, JW, KRiMZ, olofm, pronax)
Fnatic have a strong case for being the world’s best team right now and likely come into the major as the favorites to win it all. Three of their current players won the very first CS:GO major roughly 15 months ago, and now the organization is vying to become the first team to bag two majors in the game.
After a surprising loss to NiP at MLG Aspen, the black and orange regained their top spot with a dominant performance at Pantamera Challenge that saw them top four of the world’s best teams in a day filled with action in Stockholm.
pronax’s team has a favorable group draw, and are a favorite against every team in the world in a best-of-three series. If the ex-LGB duo of KRiMZ and olofm keep their performance up, and flusha resurfaces, fnatic could easily become major champions come Sunday.
France (Happy, kioShiMa, NBK, shox, SmithZz)
Definitely a top two team in the world right now, EnVyUs – formerly known as LDLC – are the defending major champions from DreamHack Winter three months ago, and more recently have won MLG X Games and placed third at Pantamera Challenge. Not a bad resume, but the recent loss stings.
Though fans will tell you how amazing Happy is as a caller, his leading is actually fairly poor compared to his peers, as his team usually wins by pure skill instead. In fact, Happy in 2015 is a much better fragger than he is a leader, based on how EnVyUs plays.
Key players for EnVy are shox, previously the world’s best player, and kioShiMa, whose inconsistent entry fragging can be the key to nV’s wins, or the reason for their downfall. Their play will decide whether NBK tweets out of frustration or happiness at the end of the event.
Sweden (allu, f0rest, friberg, GeT_RiGhT, Xizt)
The Swedes of NiP went through a roster change after a disappointing showing at Pantamera Challenge, despite top two finishes at DreamHack Winter and MLG X Games, and a win at ASUS ROG in late January. They removed Maikelele to add former mousesports member allu—who is not Swedish.
That allu is a Finnish player who speaks Finnish as his native language could be a problem in the short-term for NiP, depending how well they are able to work around the potential communication issues that might surface. Another big factor is their style—has Xizt finally let go of their years-old setups?
NiP once again pack so much skill that with their routine it’s hard to imagine them not making the semi-finals in Katowice. From there on out the differences will be so small that even allu’s communication could matter, but if he, f0rest and GeT_RiGhT are firing on all cylinders, it won’t.
Poland (byali, NEO, pasha, Snax, TaZ)
Virtus.pro have had a rocky few months in 2015, with group stage exits at both ASUS ROG, a tournament with weak competition, and Pantamera Challenge, to show for their efforts. Last year Virtus.pro broke through as an elite team at this event, and they will hope to repeat their performance.
While Snax remains one of the world’s best players, the best player of the team, Pasha, has regressed considerably since his peak in the second and third quarters of 2014. If he returns to a form resembling a top five player in the world, Virtus can win the entire event.
Realistically there is nothing to suggest—aside from last year’s precedent—that Virtus would be competing for a win here. However, given the home soil advantage they believe in, and the added motivation, it’s reasonable to expect them to bounce back in Katowice.
France (apex, Ex6TenZ, kennyS, Maniac, RpK)
Titan have the world’s best player in kennyS and one of the sharpest CS minds in Ex6TenZ. At Pantamera Challenge they proved they can hang with the best, and they will have a chance to score a huge upset when facing their countrymen EnVyUs in the group stage.
It’s unclear whether Titan are good enough to win multiple best-of-three series against top teams, but they are dangerous enough that none of the teams listed above would like to face them. A lot will depend on apEX, whose performance has been very inconsistent.
Denmark (cajunb, device, dupreeh, karrigan, Xyp9x)
TSM have only attended one tournament so far in 2015, but they had a very good showing in Aspen, finally winning a best-of-three series—even if in the third place decider match—against a team legitimately stronger than them.
Since the Danes have not been active so far in the year, it’s hard to say whether they’ve been able to fix any of the issues that have plagued them for years—especially since the issues are big games, which you can’t play from home. It’s more likely they’ll face another earlyish exit.
USA (n0thing, semphis, sgares, ShahZaM, shroud)
The Americans of Cloud9 had a very weak autumn last year, culminating in the removal of Hiko for ShahZaM. Though they scored an upset win versus NiP at MLG and beat a weak Mousesports team at the offline qualifier, there simply isn’t enough proof of Cloud9 being able to perform consistently.
In Katowice they will be in the toughest group with both Virtus and TSM present, so already advancing out of it would be an impressive feat. Odds are against Cloud9, but it’s definitely not impossible to see them in the quarter-finals.
Ukraine (Edward, GuardiaN, seized, starix, Zeus)
Na`Vi were one of the top five teams throughout last fall, but they have not attended a single tournament since DreamHack Winter. To further add to the confusion, Starix said in his video blog that he may be getting removed from the team.
At this point Na`Vi are a complete dark horse who could crash out in the groups or make a deep playoff run, thus making them one of the most exciting teams to follow going into ESL One Katowice later on in the week.
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