Thank God it's over
You never would have guessed it looking at the teams competing, but ESL Pro League Season 16 Group D was rather boring.
Questionable HLTV rankings aside, there were three obvious favorites and three obvious lesser teams, those favorites were almost guaranteed to advance to the Playoffs stage.
All three did, although one of them did somehow manage to fall to one of the lesser teams to feign excitement for the final day.
Where would Team Liquid be without YEKINDAR?
We’ll start with the team that managed to lose, Team Liquid. Most would have presumed they would top the group, but they came third after losing to both FURIA and Eternal Fire. Perhaps they would not have been so lucky if ESL didn’t use a format for their benefit.
The big talking point for Liquid this time out is the performance of Joshua “oSee” Ohm, who thus far has delivered his worst performance outside of the PGL Major Antwerp and IEM Katowice 2022.
He may be the best AWPer NA has had in years, but let’s face it, that’s not exactly difficult. His performances will have to improve drastically for Liquid to go far, even if they have an arguably easy semi-final route in Fnatic and MOUZ.
One big positive for Liquid, however, is Mareks “YEKINDAR” Galinskis. The Entry is once again proving himself to be one of the best players in the world and decidedly the best in his role. He finished the group stage with 71 opening kills, almost 20 more than the next closest player.
There were a plethora of players Liquid could have chosen to sign when they picked up YEKINDAR, but only the Latvian would have solved their misfortunes the way he has. We dread to think where they would be without him.
Cloud9 and FURIA perform as expected
Cloud9 and FURIA were the other two safe bets of this group, both performed as expected, only losing one game apiece. FURIA lost to Cloud9 while Cloud9 lost to Liquid. Pretty easy for both teams then, really.
The worst part about this group is that it makes it hard to judge these two teams. There was once a time when FURIA seemed dark horses to win tournaments, although those days now seem lost to the past. Cloud9 on the other hand was the great success of the Online era, yet that form has only reappeared for one tournament win since the return to LAN.
FURIA is certainly a long way away from winning a tournament now, Andrei “arT” Piovezan doesn’t have the impact he once had, Rafael “saffee” Costa isn’t exactly a tournament-winning caliber AWPer either. That being said, they do still have Kaike “KSCERATO” Cerato and Yuri “yuurih” Santos. The pair are the main reasons they still manage to be successful and many teams could be improved by them. Probably a good thing for FURIA that they got the team to sign 5-year contracts.
Cloud9 is as you would expect them to be. Poor showings at a couple of events aside, they’re still a good team. The question is: how good actually are they? There’s not an obvious fix, but they still feel a way of recapturing that Online form.
Eternal Fire is a one-man army
Okay, okay, this may be a disservice to the other members of Eternal Fire, but we need to give some serious credit to the performances of Ismailcan “XANTARES” Dortkardes in this group stage.
With a 1.31 rating in the group stage, XANTARES is currently the third-highest-rated player at the event. It’s pretty impressive for a player who seemed to have fallen off the cliff when he joined this team.
Ozgur “woxic” Eker had an impressive series versus Liquid and Engine “MAJ3R” Kupeli had a great couple of maps, but this team was shallow past the star of XANTARES. Not finishing in last place is all they could have ever hoped for.
It’s a shame that a player such as XANTARES has been pushed out to a team on the fringes like Eternal Fire, and to a lesser extent, the same goes for woxic too. There simply isn’t the talent in the Turkish scene for this team to ever push past this.
A SunPayus-less Movistar Riders aren’t worth having around
Who could have predicted that Movistar Riders wouldn’t be even half the team they were without Alvaro “SunPayus” Garcia?
Movistar finished dead last in the group without picking up a win. Not even against Evil Geniuses could they muster up a victory. They only managed to win a single map, coming in their opener against Liquid.
Antonio “Martinez” Martinez looks to be a decent pick-up, but he doesn’t hold the same ability to tangle with the world’s best their previous AWPer had. For every good series he had, there was a poor one to go alongside it.
Movistar might be fifth in the world according to HLTV’s team ranking, but their existence in that position makes that list a laughing stock. Even more so than Astralis sitting in fourth.
Evil Geniuses are no Complexity
Complexity was the big shock of Group C as they claimed a Playoff spot over Astralis. Evil Geniuses could not do the same in Group D.
Both teams are massively improved following recent additions, as both teams should be. but EG’s problems ran deeper than an IGL who could no longer be bothered to play the game he was getting paid for.
Vicent “Brehze” Cayonte might be finding his stride again, but Tsvetelin “CeRq” Dimitrov is absolutely woeful. If only EG had pounced on Hakon “hallzerk” Fjaerli instead of their compatriots, or thrown as much money at Abdul “degster” Gasanov as it would have taken for him to have tanked his career to join them.
The fact is, as improved as EG might be, they’re still a very long way off being a good team. Complexity may have lacked a true AWPer, but at least they had direction. EG had neither. A direction might be beginning to show its face for this team, but they’re still a couple of pieces away from being able to compete even with Complexity.