Four gruelling weeks of online qualifiers will come to fruition next week on December 4 as the ESL Pro League Season 8 Finals take to Odense, Denmark for a star-studded competition between Counter-Strike’s best. A lofty cash purse of $750,000 will underline each match at the 16 team event featuring a pool of squads from around the world. One thing is for certain, though – the competition in Odense is going to be stiff. We’ve got your back in this week’s ESI Gambling Report, powered by BetOnBit.
A Cinderella story
Saying that Astralis is the best team in the world right now is almost a disservice to them weighing in just how far ahead they are than the rest of the pack in competitive Counter-Strike. The Danish superteam has truly cemented their greatness over the last several months; a collection of title finishes has left players, fans and analysts wondering what can be done to stop this absolute death squad. The subject of vast demo analysis by organisations, coaches and analysts have yet to yield anything in terms of stopping power against them. Beyond the impressive collection of trophies and abiding period as the #1 world ranked team is the fashion in which Astralis is commanding their successes within the CS:GO pro circuit. Apart from the rare ‘flukes’ in which Astralis falters, the team is consistently winning in sheer dominant fashion; the comeback is real, too – the Danes have shown composure countless times on the biggest stages that they can reel a game back into their favour defying any circumstance. You simply can never count this team out no matter how bleak a match, round or series may look.
Astralis evolves into something much more frightening when you factor in the home field advantage they’ll have as a Danish squad playing on LAN in Odense. For the most part, Astralis is the villain at every tournament they attend – it’s daunting to think what they’ll be able to pull off with a crowd of roaring fans behind them. Astralis winning this event would also mean capturing the Intel Grand Slam, a competition to see which team can win four ESL events within a ten-tournament window for a whopping $1,000,000. You honestly couldn’t draft a better script for Astralis to win in this instance, all things considered. A victory here is too sweet to let slip away – however, it’d be equally as monumental for a team to steal that away from them…
The dark horse
After watching the ECS Season 6 Finals last week in Arlington, Texas – you can’t help but have a bit of faith in MIBR; not only was the mix of Brazilian and American players able to beat Astralis in the group stage, they nearly trounced them in the Grand Finals falling just short of what would have been a groundbreaking feat. While the scoreline of the Grand Finals reflects a common 2-0 theme any team going up against Astralis is at least presumed to settle at, the series was an utter dogfight. MIBR pushed the Danes to their absolute limit, finishing the first map at 14-16 and the next in overtime at 20-22.
With core roster changes several months ago, it has been a slow process getting this group of Major-winners into the form you would expect when looking at the roster on paper – however, these signs of life at ECS seemed to be promising. Despite not being his best tournament, Tarik “tarik” Celik, stepped up in crucial rounds generating a few highlight-worthy plays that kept MIBR in that game against Astralis. With the talent, experience and craftiness of this brigade, you would assume they are bound to blow into something greater sooner or later. A first-place finish in Odense could be their moment to start that process. After tasting blood in Arlington just last week, we can only assume they are going to enter this event headstrong.
Out for blood
Team Liquid has seemed to have assumed the role of North America’s team over the last few months with the energy they have brought to the region. In-game leader, Nicholas “nitr0” Cannella, regarded this current configuration as the best variation of Liquid he has seen throughout his career with the organisation. This notion is fairly warranted, though – at their prime, Liquid is a fearsome group; high IQ plays that we’ve seen from players on the roster such as Keith “NAF” Marković and Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken can decide key rounds on a map while adding a layer of excitement for spectators. Liquid has shown a wealth of promise and their supporters have been unwavering in wishing success for them – still though, they’ve produced little results in the grand picture.
What we’ve noticed from the team is they tend to play heavily off the energy in the room; at IEM Chicago, Liquid were the clear crowd favourites which seemed to underscore their gameplay and encourage high-risk, high-reward strategies that worked out in their favour. On the other side of the coin, when things start to look grim, Liquid is quick to fall apart. While it’s a great attribute to be able to channel energy from the crowd, it’s far worse to lose zeal so swiftly during a series – in our opinion, this is Liquid’s greatest downfall. On the upside, the team doesn’t seem to carry baggage from one event to the next – keeping them fresh each time they step foot into a new tournament
The NA troop exited ECS last week quite prematurely last week, which leaves a bad taste in our mouths when considering them as a contender for first at the ESL Pro League Finals. They certainly have the capability to beat any team at this event while at their best, it’s only a matter of them conditioning themselves into that mind frame. In paramount matches such as playoffs, Astralis would appear to be Liquid’s kryptonite. The eagerness to win their first noteworthy LAN is easily countered by the seasoned professionalism of the Danes. Liquid is surely competent and fit enough to win any of the tournaments they attend and followers of competitive CS:GO will (for the most part) agree with that – it’s just a matter of them closing out. It’s a hard gambit to roll the dice on this squad-based off what they’ve shown us. We can respect their contention at this tournament, but toppling projected grand finalists Astralis is an even harder sell.
While we’ve only highlighted a small handful of the 16 teams participating at the ESL Pro League Finals, we can almost guarantee a thrilling gauntlet of games to watch from all the competitors. Some of the other notable names attending such as North, BIG, Na’Vi, Mousesports, NRG, and Ghost Gaming are all squads to keep on eye on at this event. If you do decide to get in on the action with a few wagers, ESI reminds you to bet responsibly!
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