This week will see another high stake Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament, the exhibition taking place in the capital of Brazil’s Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, ushers eight teams to compete for their ration of a $200,000 prize pool. Over the course of five days, ESL One Belo Horizonte will feature a skilled cast, it’s truly anyone’s race to first in Brazil and we’ve got your tournament insights covered in this week’s ESI Gambling Report.
At first glance, there’s an interesting mix of high and mid-tier teams at this event; on the stronger end of the spectrum, FaZe Clan and Team Liquid are the only two squads making appearances after playing in last week’s ECS Season 5 Finals. Among other top contenders, Belo Horizonte will see Mousesports attempt to continue the reinvention of themselves in an event that is well within their grasp. Current world leader Astralis is notably missing from this lineup, signalling an opportune moment for other top-ranked teams to claim silverware in Brazil during their absence. The lower graduation will be looking to unnerve one or more of the favourites while gaining some experience playing against world-class squads; initial impressions suggest upsets by Space Soldiers or BIG are a long shot, although storylines thus far suggest not counting them out just yet.
The Brazilian roster that comprises SK Gaming will have the advantage of playing on home soil this event – assuming the troop can channel the crowd’s energy, they might have a shot at reaching the end of bracket. SK has experienced a bit of trouble with their current configuration after redefining their roster with Jake “Stewie2K” Yip – the team has shown some improvement as of late, insisting they are on the rise. Just last week, the Brazilian organisation travelled back from Lisbon with a Moche XL Esports title win and $25,000 in their pockets. Albeit SK’s only notable hurdle at Moche XL was no. 15 globally ranked HellRaisers – whom they disposed of quite easily – the competition and stakes are going to be much higher in Belo Horizonte. Space Soldiers delivered SK a devastating blow in the first series, overturning the hometown heroes 2-0.
SK would bounce back though, eliminating Ghost from Group A – an outcome we’d expect, but a much-needed victory nonetheless. If SK’s group stage performance is a strong indicator of their tournament outlook, we’re not yet convinced they can contest the gold medal. SK will have their chance at retribution though, the decider round will see yet another clash between themselves and Space Soldiers; despite the first series not going in their favour, the neighbourhood atmosphere in the arena should bolster SK’s abilities.
Titans fight for first in Astralis absence
FaZe Clan has everything to play for this weekend, and in the wake of an Astralis holiday, the time is now for FaZe to step in as the champions. Since their ESL One New York win which showcased an unstoppable superteam maintaining a clean sheet throughout, FaZe has had their eyes on the Intel Grand Slam; the first squadron to secure four $200,000+ tournament wins between ESL and Dreamhack will cash in on a cool $1,000,000 – a feat FaZe is on the cusp of. With just three Intel Grand Slam events remaining and FaZe needing to bag two of those, capturing Belo Horizonte is paramount. In the absence of Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer Gustafsson FaZe will be fielding Jorgen ‘Cromen’ Robertsen – although the roster instability has proven to be troubling for the European squad, they’ll likely have a bit more room to find themselves in Brazil. FaZe has shown great promise thus far at Belo Horizonte – making it to the finals seems probable, although a Mousesports match-up seems murky.
Historically a threat to premiere CS:GO teams and having contested the likes of both FaZe and Astralis in the past, no squad is taking Mousesports lightly. The Europeans hit the ground running – decimating Não Tem Como in their first skirmish and polishing their seat in the semi-finals after toppling Liquid in a dominating display. The team has looked to be in far better shape following the acquisition of Chris “chrisJ” de Jong, who collected an impressive triple-kill in the first round of the second map against Não Tem Como. Up against Liquid, chrisJ was again the star as he flashed his prestige with a mesmerizing solo ace. The European group is a talented bunch, and they’re carving out to be the fiercest in Brazil – if Mousesports can maintain this vigour, they’ll unquestionably be lifting the trophy on Sunday.
Team Liquid has gotten stronger and stronger with time, the young roster has seen a dramatic increase in performances following Epitacio ‘TACO’ de Melo’s appendage. Liquid being a squadron with unbelievable individual talent, TACO’s blueblood has served as an exuberant supplement to the team. Having reached the finals twice in their last three appearances – falling both times to Astralis – Liquid’s prospect seemed strong given the Danes aren’t in attendance. Liquid received a crippling wake-up call in the form of a 2-0 loss handed to them by Mousesports; granted the multi-cultural team is a very formidable opponent, the loss was nevertheless dispiriting. Liquid will face BIG in a decider match today – they seemed to breeze by them with ease in group play, so we’re anticipating this should be an easy win for the North Americans if they can reconfigure after yesterday’s loss.
The Turkish band, Space Soldiers is a bit of a gambit here; after finishing second at WESG back in March against Fnatic in what proved to be a tight running, they’ve dropped off dramatically since. Two low-place finishes at DreamHack Masters Marseille and ESL Pro League Season 7 had left Space Soldiers desperately trying to claw their way back up the rankings, but to hardly any avail. Earlier this month we saw a hint of life from the Turks as they managed to secure a DreamHack Open Austin title win, stifling teams such as Rogue and OpTic along the way.
Space Soldiers showed a bit of promise in their first match of the tournament by clinching a hard-fought victory against SK on their home soil; the series was close though, and while a more commanding win would make imagining a world in which they upset the likes of Faze, Liquid or Mousesports possible, we’re not seeing that aptitude from them quite yet.
Here are the best odds available (at the time of writing) for ESL One Belo Horizonte – if you do decide to wager on any of the lines, Esports Insider reminds you to bet responsibly!
SK Gaming vs. Space Soldiers
This match-up is a bit dicey – Space Soldiers were able to overturn SK in the first series, although the map scores were a bit too close for comfort. SK hasn’t truly proved themselves yet in our opinion, they sent Ghost home but that should have been an elementary encounter for them. While the odds for Space Soldiers are tantalizing, we ultimately believe SK should take this series given the home court advantage and being the overall more seasoned team.
Prediction: SK Gaming
|SK Gaming||Betway 1.40||Bet365 1.40|
|Space Soldiers||Betway 2.75||Bet365 2.75|
Team Liquid vs. BIG
Another close matchup, Liquid and BIG will square up yet again, this time with either a playoff seed or seat in the bleachers at risk. BIG has looked significantly better, and this will by no means be a carefree venture for Liquid, but seeing how they matched up earlier at this event Liquid should have this one in the bag.
Prediction: Team Liquid
|Team Liquid||Betway 1.20||Bet365 1.65|
|BIG||Betway 4.00||Bet365 4.50|