The Group Stage of ESL Pro League Season 16 has concluded. We’ve seen some shocking results and thrilling upsets. From Endpoint beating NAVI in convincing fashion to Ninjas in Pyjamas failing to qualify and subsequently making roster changes. Taking stage in Malta, the Playoffs kick-off with 12 teams, rather than the eight we are more accustomed to seeing in a playoff bracket. This is due to three teams making it out of each group and will, without a doubt, lead to some breath-taking moments.
Playoffs Round 1
The first round features FaZe Clan, Complexity, Fnatic, Team Liquid, Heroic, NAVI, FURIA, and Outsiders. There are some huge names here, including the top three teams in the world (based on HLTV World Rankings).
A matchup that is immediately striking is NAVI vs. Heroic. This is a battle of two giants in CS:GO. Heroic have had an incredible couple of years, and NAVI have had even better. Heroic will need to pull out all the shots if they want to take on the powerhouse that is NAVI and In-Game Leader (IGL) Casper "cadiaN" Møller certainly did that in the Group Stage, boasting an impressive 1.19 HLTV Rating.
The Danish team will be hopeful of winning going into this match, especially considering the rocky performances given from the individuals in NAVI during their Group-Stage run. Pinnacle favours NAVI in this matchup, valuing them at 1.460*. Depending on how the map veto turns out, this could be a good bet to take on Heroic, who are valued at 2.750*. This is a matchup that is sure to be exciting.
Another team featuring in the first round of the Playoffs that many would have expected to have immediately qualified for the Quarter-Finals is FaZe Clan. This European/Canadian team have taken home some of the biggest trophies in 2022. Now, one tournament win away from the Intel Grand Slam, they will be looking to take yet another.
Robin "ropz" Kool seemed to find tremendous form during the Group Stage and if he can keep it up, FaZe Clan could be looking good to take home another trophy. Their first match is against Complexity; a team that shocked many and qualified over Astralis (thanks to Heroic beating Astralis in the Danish derby on the final day of Group C). Having already surprised many by making it this far, they will need to continue to put in great performances if they want to make it any further in this competition. Pinnacle has Complexity valued at 6.170* in their match against FaZe Clan.
Fnatic vs. Team Liquid kicks off the Playoffs and both teams have been looking impressive since revamping their rosters earlier in the year. Fnatic took on the Danish duo Nico "nicoodoz" Tamjidi and Fredrik "roeJ" Jørgensen to strengthen their roster. It seems to have had some immediate impact, helping getting them out of the Group Stage.
Team Liquid added Mareks "YEKINDAR" Gaļinskis who gave top-level performances at both BLAST Premier Fall Groups 2022 and during their run in Group D. Team Liquid will go into this as the favourite, being valued at 1.609*, but this matchup could end up being one of the more exciting matches of the first round.
The last match to discuss is FURIA vs. Outsiders. This is a matchup of opposites. FURIA are famously very aggressive and have a style of play unlike no other team, whereas Outsiders are known to play more strategically and slow-paced.
A scary sign for Outsiders is the level of skill Kaike "KSCERATO" Cerato showed for FURIA in the Group Stage. Coming in as the second-highest rated player at the event, this is a player to fear for any team that get in FURIA’s way.
That being said, Evgeniy "FL1T" Lebedev shone for Outsiders making it apparent who the star players are for these two teams currently. Pinnacle values FURIA at 1.724* and Outsiders at 2.140*. This could go either way and will be difficult to predict.
There are four teams that currently have spots in the Quarter-finals; these are the four teams who topped each of their respective groups: Cloud9, MOUZ, G2 Esports, and Team Vitality. Dmitriy "sh1ro" Sokolov, Ádám "torzsi" Torzsás, Ilya "m0NESY" Osipov, and Mathieu "ZywOo" Herbaut truly showed how impactful the AWP role can be, recording tremendous numbers on the server. It’s also worth noting that Nikola "NiKo" Kovač was in incredible form across all games in Group B, helping G2 go 5-0.
The opponents that these four are going to get are currently unknown, but with some strong contenders playing in Round 1, it should be interesting. Cloud9 could face FaZe Clan, NAVI are in with the chance of facing G2, and FURIA could battle it out with Vitality.
This means we could lose the majority of HLTVs top five team in the opening stages. A more promising sign, based on the brackets, is that we could get another FaZe Clan vs. NAVI best-of-five Final. A repeat of this matchup at the level of Cologne would be a spectacle for any CS:GO fan and a chance for FaZe Clan to claim the Grand Slam.
*Odds are subject to change.