With the Challengers Stage of IEM Rio 2022 behind us and the Legends stage about to begin, which teams will be making the playoffs?
So far, MOUZ has looked stronger than ever, and both Cloud9 and Vitality look more like their usual selves after difficult starts. Brazilian fans only have FURIA left to root for after the dismal showings of 00Nation and Imperial, while UK CS is finally back in the Legends stage with William “mezii” Merriman’s Fnatic.
Now is the time the competition gets real, and the Legends stage for Rio looks to be one of the most competitive for years. With FaZe and NAVI the chiefs of the new field, also joining will be the likes of Liquid, NIP, and Major-form Robert “Patsi” Isyanov. Not only is it hard to pick the teams that will actually make the playoffs, it’s almost impossible to pick those that will go 0-3. Even teams like Sprout have displayed themselves to be formidable opponents, while a CT side as strong as Bad News Eagle’s can take a team very far.
So, in case you’re struggling with your Pick Em’s, these are the teams that we think will progress to the playoffs of IEM Rio 2022.
Liquid – NA’s only hope
Considering we’ve said we think Liquid will be the team to take home the IEM Rio 2022 crown, it doesn’t feel right to start anywhere else. They might only be as good as they are because of EU influence, but NA’s only hope in the competition is the strongest they’ve been since their Intel Grand Slam run in 2019.
With a star core of Mareks “YEKINDAR” Galinskis, Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski, and Keith “NAF” Markovic, Liquid have as much firepower as any team in the world. When one of those stars is YEKINDAR and his infinite impact on the CT side, they’re also a nightmare for any team in the world to have to play.
The only stumbling points for Liquid are the fragging power of their IGL Nick “nitr0” Canella and the experience of their AWPer Josh “oSee” Ohm. The former shouldn’t cause too much trouble if the other pieces perform as expected, but the latter will have to step up and erase some of his mistakes if they are to take home the crown. The playoffs, however, are almost guaranteed.
FaZe – The best team in the world?
For most of 2022, FaZe Clan has been the undisputed best team in the world. Outside circumstances may have favored them, but FaZe has been the unstoppable force to NAVI’s immovable object ever since the arrival of Robin “ropz” Kool.
FaZe has looked off the boil recently, even losing their place at the top of HLTV’s team rankings to the new Vitaliy team. That being said, this is a Major, and FaZe also has a chance to bring home their own Intel Grand Slam.
Let’s also not forget the impact Finn “karrigan” Andersen will have on the crowd. With only FURIA remaining of the Brazilian contingent, the crowd will be looking for a team to get behind. karrigan is a master at hyping up a crowd and getting them behind him, expect them to be rooting for FaZe any time they’re on stage.
NAVI – A chance to get back on top
Any team with a star like Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev is a dead cert to make a deep run at an event, but it helps that NAVI also has Denis “electronic” Sharipov and Valeriy “b1t” Vakhovskiy.
NAVI has been the other team battling it out with FaZe for the top spot this year, and despite losing IGL Kiril “boombl4” Mikhailov and bringing in Viktor “sdy” Orudzhev, that hasn’t changed.
Their record against FaZe in big games may not be great, and s1mple may be understandably faltering at times, but you can be certain that they will make their way into the playoffs in Rio.
NIP – Time for redemption
Many eyebrows were raised when NIP chose to sign Aleksi “Aleksib” Virolainen, but a strong performance at the EU RMR quickly laid initial fears to rest. Now with Nicolai “device” Reedtz officially behind them, it’s time for this NIP roster to kick on and challenge.
Aleksib’s stock may have been low after his short time on G2, but he made it to Rio and they did not. His inclusion in the team has also seemed to unlock the true fragging potential of former IGL Hampus “hampus” Poser, finally giving NIP the third star they should have had in device for a year.
We’re still yet to be convinced by Fredrik “REZ” Sterner as the primary AWPer, it feels like this team would be a true contender if they had someone more used to the role – NIP Abdul “degster” Gasanov when? – but they have enough firepower to see them through. Swiss might even favor them enough for them to go 3-0.
FURIA – Representing their nation
Brazilian teams had a tough time during the Challengers Stage. Both Imperial and 00Nation were severe letdowns as they both went 0-3, while FURIA themselves had an embarrassing collapse against their first-round opponents BIG.
The loss against BIG didn’t seem to affect them too much though. Their three subsequent victories came with relative ease. Both of FURIA’s main stars have excelled so far, while Andrei “arT” Piovezan and Rafael “saffee” Costa have also impressed.
Home crowd advantage might be a myth, but as the only home team left in the competition, FURIA will be looking to do their nation proud. With the thunderous crowd guaranteed to be behind them and being already settled at the event thanks to their Challengers run, FURIA is a team no one will look forward to playing.
MOUZ – La MOUZia reigns supreme
With how well Dorian “xertioN” Berman has started life on MOUZ’s main team, it really is baffling that it took him so long to be promoted. Especially when the alternative was Aurimas “bymas” Pipiras.
MOUZ’s experience might be what lets them down, and honestly, this is the team we’re least sure about, but the firepower of the xertioN/David “frozen” Cernansky rifle duo is one to be feared. They have a difficult Legends Stage opener against Liquid at IEM Rio 2022, but already being warmed up will aid them massively.
This might be a Major too soon for MOUZ, but xertioN and frozen’s performances so far really can’t be understated. It also helps when both Jon “JDC” de Castro and Adam “torzsi” Torszas are performing above average. Even if this team doesn’t make playoffs, they’re certain to be contenders very soon.
Spirit – Major form will see them through
Does anyone remember how good Egor “flamie” Vasilyev always was at Majors? If not, it doesn’t matter, we’ve got Patsi now. The young Russian is the star of Spirit’s team of young stars and when the Major comes around, he steps it up another gear.
Spirit will be disappointed with their showing at ESL Pro League Season 16, missing out on playoffs in favor of Fnatic, NIP, and NAVI. The result proved that degster was a huge loss and that Igor “w0nderful” Zhdanov isn’t quite ready to fill the gap left just yet.
The Pro League experience will be vital for the young Ukrainian, however, and like we’ve said twice now, Patsi at Majors is a phenom. Spirit made the semi-finals last time around, they’ll be looking to do the same again this time.
Vitality – Counter-Strike’s second son
We may have said Vitality will disappoint at IEM Rio 2022, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make playoffs. With Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut on the team, anything less than that is a disaster
We still think the lack of a true third star is what makes Vitalikty unworthy of their spot at the summit of HLTV’s team rankings, but Emil “Magisk” Reif and Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen still have enough magic in them to carry them through when needed.
Lotan “spinx” Giladi has transformed this team from an endless disappointment to a tournament-winning caliber team, and with Sergey “Ax1le” Rykhtorov underperforming so far, Vitality should be able to make the last spot in playoffs over the Russians of Cloud9.