5 Stories from ESL's first Road to Rio
- ESL announced a series of online qualifying events called the Road to Rio.
- How did all the teams fare, major misses, & wins from the first of the 3 series qualifying event.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s Rio Major, one of the key highlights in this year’s Esports calendar, was always going to be put on the backburner following the outbreak of COVID-19 across the world. The tournament’s organiser, ESL, announced in April that the tournament would be postponed to November and its prize pool doubled to $2 million, a record for the game.
In the meantime, ESL announced a series of Online qualifying events called the Road to Rio that will be used to determine who will be making the tournament and what stage they will be competing from. The group stage of the first of three Road to Rios has just wrapped up, and it’s safe to say that it threw up some interesting stories. From the technical difficulties of adjusting to competitive life Online, to some seriously God-like performances from some surprise faces. Here’s our top 5 stories from ESL’s first Road to Rio group stage.
5. Perfect Performance For FaZe
Despite still boasting one of the most star-studded lineups in the entire history of Esports, FaZe Clan came into the Road to Rio with their traditional ‘bottler’ label over their heads. The Manchester City of Counter-Strike, Niko, Coldzera, Broky, Rain and Olofmeister all have the individual talent to dominate any opponent, but so frequently struggle to bring it all together in a harmonious team performance.
We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves here, but Road to Rio could be the time for FaZe to begin turning this around. The side went 7-0 in Group B of the European bracket, picking up 270 round wins against just 194 losses in a ratio better than any other side in the world. As ever with FaZe Clan, closing these things out when it really matters will remain the true test however, and it’ll be interesting to see how the org performs going forward with the stakes and expectations raised.
4. Cloud9 Take North America By Storm
It’s been a long time since the days where Cloud9 were a Major-winning powerhouse. The era of Stewie2k, Tarik, Skadoodle, Rush and Autimatic will always be legendary within the community, but their eventual departures left Cloud9 in a freefall that saw them nearly drop out of the top 30 sides in the world.
They came into the Road to Rio ranked 28th in the world, but quickly established themselves as genuine competitors with some seriously impressive wins over Evil Geniuses and GEN.G, looking particularly solid on Inferno, where they went 4-1 in the tournament. Their memorable run concluded with a brilliant display against Liquid in the 3rd place match, cementing themselves as one of the upcoming sides to look out for in the tournaments coming up.
3. Na’Vi Make A Shocking Exit
The Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) World Championships in Katowice was the last Counter-Strike to played on LAN, and saw Natus Vincere romp to an absolutely crushing win. The CIS side, propped up by the world’s best player, S1mple, claimed the number one spot in the world but only finished fourth in the follow up event, ESL Pro League Season 11.
Still, regional restrictions meant that the closest sides to them in their CIS Road to Rio group were Forze, Spirit and Virtus.pro in 18th, 19th and 22nd respectively in the world rankings. Most CS fans were wondering why a side like Na’Vi were even forced to play against sides so far beneath them, however things did not go according to plan for S1mple and co. Virtus, Syman and Hard Legion Esports all stunned esports betting markets everywhere with wins over the Russian-owned org, dumping them out of the entire competition with a final 2-3 (156-154) record.
We’re sure Na’Vi will still find the wins across the year to qualify for ESL One Rio, but stumbling at the first hurdle is hardly a good way of building your confidence ahead of the competition.
2. Team Liquid Choke Again
After years of being seen as one of Counter-Strike’s most ‘choke-heavy’ sides, Liquid finally looked to have turned a corner during the summer of 2019. Starting with IEM Sydney and culminating in ESL One Cologne, Liquid romped to the top of the world rankings and crowned their accomplishments off with an Intel Grand Slam in just 63 days, the fastest ever seen in the game.
However, since then, there’s not been much to cheer about for the Liquid camp. It’s approaching a whole year since their last triumph, save for a Pro League title against their fellow NA opponents, and the familiar issues of roles and responsibilities across the team have begun to resurface again. Despite winning the North American Pro League just ten days before Road to Rio kicked off, the campaign marked a fresh low for Elige, Naf, Twistzz, Stewie2k and Nitro.
A shocking 1-4 record on Vertigo and losses to Envy, Furia (twice) and Cloud9 sealed a disappointing 4th place finish for a side usually associated with absolutely dominating the North American servers.
1. Heroes To Zeroes For Fnatic
Since the current Fnatic roster first came together at Dreamhack Malmo in October, the side have finished in the top four of the last nine events they have attended, picking up wins at Malmo and the ESL Pro League in April. This remarkable consistency, unmatched by any side in the world, saw the Swedish side finally leap to number one in the world rankings at the start of their Road to Rio.
However, the tournament was nothing short of a disaster for Fnatic. Though they were able to beat Astralis and Complexity, their narrow win against Heretics and gut-wrenching losses to Ence, Dignitas, Vitality and Ninjas in Pyjamas were examples of how badly off form the side were in the server. Whether it was a hangover from their Pro League win, a case of losing confidence/idea against sides more familiar with an Online competition, or simply a series of bad days at the office, Fnatic have their work cut out for them in the coming months if they want to go into the Rio Major amongst the favourites again.