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The ESL One Cologne 2016 CounterStrike: Global Offensive tournament is kicking off on the 8th of July and it looks like it’s going to be a good one.
8 Legends and Challengers make up a 16 man pool battling over 3 days in order to claim their share of the $1 million prize pot.
Note:If you don’t know, the Legends are the top 8 teams from the previous CS:GO Major tournament who gain automatic entry, while the Challengers are the 8 teams that made it through the qualification rounds.
ESL One Cologne 2016 is the biggest Counter Strike: Global Offensive Review tournament to date, with the join largest ever prize pot, so the competition will be cut-throat, and riveting to watch.
The Legends, as always, make up the favourites to win this ESL One Cologne 2016 major championship.
In particular SK Gaming will be looking to take their first major championship under that name, following the switch from Luminosity Gaming. In all likelihood the Brazilians are likely to succeed.
The likes of Natus Vincere, Team Liquid and Fnatic will also be seeing this as a real opportunity to take the title too though.
Others, notably Counter Logic Gaming, will just be looking to retain their Legends status though.
The champions of the MLG Major Championship: Columbus (sort of) and the undisputed best team in the world enter the ESL One Cologne 2016 following quite a few months of controversy.
Of course that’s because SK Gaming didn’t win the MLG Major Championship: Columbus, Luminosity Gaming did. SK Gaming then bought the entire roster of Luminosity Gaming and with it inherited the place at the ESL One Cologne tournament.
This Brazilian side have truly broken up the normal European domination of the CS:GO tournament scene. By winning the MLG Columbus tournament they were the first American team to win a major championship.
Since then they have claimed 1st place in DreamHack Austin 2016, ESL Pro League Season 3 – Finals and Esports Championship Series Season 1 – North America. They’ve also claimed 2nd place in the Esports Championship Series Season 1 – Finals.
In the Esports Championship Series Season 1 – Finals it was G2 Esports that defeated them, who also took them to the very edge of defeat in the ESL Pro League Season 3 – Finals, so undoubtedly they will be keeping an eye out for them here.
Natus Vincere are a team on the rise and have recently put in some high standard performances. This includes a fantastic second place finish just behind the dominant SK Gaming in the MLG Major Championship Columbus.
They also finished 2nd to Team EnvyUs in the previous CS:GO Major. The DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca 2015. There have been several other 2nd and 1st place finishes over the past 8 months with there being very few tournaments where they have finished lower.
Na’vi haven’t played in too many tournaments since the MLG Columbus due to an injury to GuardiaN but he is better now and are the second most likely to take the title at ESL One Cologne, behind SK Gaming.
The all Danish side of Astralis have never quite hit the heights in premier Counter Strike Global Offensive tournaments.
Having only been formed (or rather reformed) in January this year they’ve seen a range of results, but mostly focusing in the 3rd to 4th positions. In their one Major showing, The MLG Columbus, they were knocked out fairly comfortably in the semi-finals by Natus Vincere.
Since then they made the decision to change their lineup by bringing in Kjaerbye from Team Dignitas, in trade for cajunb.
This would have made a good improvement to the side, however Kjaerbye cannot play for Astralis at ESL One Cologne due to attending the EU minor with his previous side, Team Dignitas.
This means Astralis will need to play a stand-in, gla1ve.
The Astralis captain, karrigan, has set the teams goal at finishing in the top eight to retain their Legends place. A fair goal as they are unlikely to achieve better.
At the MLG Columbus major tournament Team Liquid finished an impressive 3rd place. Since then though it’s been much more of a struggle, not making it out of the group stages in either the ESL Pro League Season 3 – Finals or the Esports Championship Series Season 1 – Finals.
This has led to them looking for changes, and they brought in jdm64 to replace adreN.
Team Liquid is still a side with huge amounts of talent and this refreshed line-up could make an impact in this tournament.
I wouldn’t expect them to win it as the team will still be gelling, but they could definitely get through to the playoffs.
The dominance of Swedish side Ninjas in Pyjamas in CS:GO is a thing of the past. Despite once being the kings of the CounterStrike scene in 2014, more recent results have been less positive.
So far in 2016 the majority of Ninjas in Pyjamas tournament performances has seen them knocked out in the group stages or the first round of playoffs.
This includes the MLG Major Championship Columbus, where they were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs, albeit to the runners-up, Natus Vincere. They also had to contend with having to field a replacement for pyth who has Visa issues.
However the experience of this veteran side and the undoubted quality they contain means they can never truly be counted out in major tournaments, though they’re main goal would likely be to maintain their Legends status.
A top 4 spot is still a possibility though if things go smoothly for the side.
Going into the MLG Major Championship Columbus, Swedish side Fnatic had been in great form, with several 1st place finishes in a row.
It was therefore somewhat disappointing to see them go out in Columbus at the quarter-final stage to Astralis.
However it has since turned out that their star player, and arguably the best player in the world, olofmeister, was suffering with a wrist injury.
Since then olofmeister has been left out of the starting roster to rest and recover from his wrist injury, this has seen a real drop in Fnatics results, finishing 3rd-4th in the ESL Pro League Season 3 Finals as well as the Esports Championshup Series Season 1 Finals.
However for the ESL One Cologne we are seeing the return of the king. Olofmeister is back and this will put Fnatic right in the mix-up for the title.
While Fnatic may not be the side they once were, who won 3 world titles, they are still phenomenally talented and well worth keeping an eye on.
US side Counter Logic Gaming are entering their first ever major as a legends team after finally getting through the group stages during the MLG Major Championship Columbus.
They were promptly knocked out by Team Liquid in the quarter-finals but it does show progress.
Unfortunately since then they’ve mostly struggled, being knocked out in the group stages.
In response to this they removed FugLy from their side and brought in koosta, who is a talented sniper, though he has struggled at his previous side, Team Liquid.
Unfortunately they’ve also lost jdm64 to Team Liquid, certainly their star player and they haven’t picked up a further replacement and so are fielding a stand-in, pita.
This means that CLG will likely struggle to repeat the achievement of escaping the group stage and will lose their Legends status in all probability.
Virtus.pro are a side of extreme continuity, with all 5 members being in the side since January 2014. This makes them a side with great teamwork, along with experience and skill.
The Polish side also enjoyed a really successful 2015, however 2016 has not gone quite so well. The majority of tournaments has seen them knocked out in the first round of playoffs, though they’ve consistently made it through the group stages.
There have been some exceptions, notably the first place finish in the StarLadder i-league Invitational, beating Natus Vincere in the final.
In general they are a side who regularly perform well in the largest tournaments. I would certainly expect them to make it through the group stages, and they could go further from there.
As always the underdogs, the Challengers offer longer odds to take advantage of for the informed gambler.
The likes of mousesports, FlipSid3 Tactics and G2 Esports will want to take the next step in their progress and a number of brand new sides are looking to make their mark.
As usual though, none of these sides are likely to win the overall tournament though.
The German side of mousesports have never truly competed at the top level of CS:GO, normally failing at the group stages of tournaments, and at best the first round of playoffs.
This has continued this year, until the recent incoming of a new coach, kassad. This has shown an almost immediate improvement, with a new more tactical approach, which saw them easily qualify for the ESL One Cologne.
They’ve also got some great firepower in their side and have demonstrated their ability to compete with the very best on many occasions.
They’ve never made it out of the group stages in a major championship, but the improvements brought by kassad could see them achieving it for the first time here.
The United States based team FaZe Clan are newcomers to the CounterStrike: Global Offensive scene, starting out in January 2016 when they signed the entire roster from G2 Esports.
Since joining the CS:GO scene FaZe have struggled to make much of a mark, having never made it out of the group stage of a tournament.
To help arrest this problem, they brought in the experienced kioShiMa from Team EnVyYs to replace Maikelele. They’ve shown some improvements since this and qualified for the ESL One Cologne comfortably.
They’re still a side with a lot to learn tactically though and are unlikely to break their playoff duck at this point.
OpTic Gaming are more well known for the Call of Cuty team. Having only entered the CS:GO arena this year, this Canadian side still have a lot to prove.
Having failed to qualify for the MLG Major Championship Columbus, they still have not had the opportunity to compete in a CS:GO major.
However, recently they have put in a few notable performances. This includes the ESL Pro League Season 3 Finals where, despite not making it out of the group stages, got a good win against top side Astralis.
With their side not featuring a single player that has competed in a major though, It has to be said that it is unlikely that OpTic Gaming will be taking this tournament by storm and I’d be surprised if they made it out of the group stage.
Another team that are new to CS:GO, this Russian side have quickly made a name for themselves, especially with their appearance in the MLS Major Championship Columbus.
In Columbus, Gambit Gaming put in a number of good performances and narrowly missed achieving Legends status at the first attempt. A 2-1 series defeat to CLG costing them from getting into the playoffs.
In their limited appearances, especially in LAN tournaments, Gambit Gaming have shown they can mix it up with the big boys.
In no way are they going to win the ESL One Cologne 2016, however they stand a reasonable chance of making it through their group if they maintain the form they showed in Columbus.
French side Team EnVyUs are mostly known for Call of Duty, but their CounterStrike Global Offensive side have been competing since early 2015.
The made a good early mark on the scene, helping by the fact they started by purchasing the entirety of the LDLC.com roster.
More recently things have not been going as well with the group stages often being the limit of their ability. Indeed that is where they finished in the MLG Major Championship Columbus, failing to pick up a single win.
They did put a strong showing at the DreamHack Master Malmo 2016, reaching the semi-finals but they’ve otherwise lacked any real success, especially since the loss of kioShiMa.
The likelihood is their struggled will continue until they refresh their lineup properly and I wouldn’t expect them to make it out of the group stage in Cologne.
Team Dignitas had a major change to their line-up a few weeks ago when they lost kjaerbye to Astralis in exchange for cajunb.
This hasn’t had any major impact on their results though, though they have qualified for the ESL One Cologne, while they failed to qualify for the previous major, the MLG Columbus.
They struggled in qualification though and have otherwise struggled heavily in the more premier CS:GO tournaments, failing to qualify for many of them, such as the Esports Championship Series Season 1.
Overall Team Dignitas have little hope of having any real impact at this tournament and I wouldn’t expect them to make it out of the group stages at all.
Since their formation in 2015 the Ukrainian side of FlipSid3 Tactics have regularly qualified for the major championships. However they have never made it out of the group stages to date.
Indeed in the lead up to this tournament they’ve consistently found themselves struggling in the group stages in the Premier tournaments they have entered, including the MLG Columbus.
They have shown at times this year that they can keep up with the top teams though, such as Ninjas in Pyjamas during the Esports World Cup.
Their goal in this tournament will be to finally make it into the playoffs stage to claim Legends status for the first time. The addition of experienced player Waylander will be a boost towards this goal and they stand an outside chance of making it to the final 8, but no further.
G2 Esports have had quite a rebuilding to do after selling their entire roster to FaZe Clan in January.
In response to this, they themselves purchased the entire roster of Titan as well as bringing in body from LCLD.com.
After initially struggling they have started to find some good form including an astonishing first place in the Esports Championship Series Season 1 – Finals. To win the tournament they had to beat most of the top sides, including the favourites for the ESL One Cologne, SK Gaming (then Luminosity).
A lot of G2 Esports success has been built around outstanding individual performances, notably those of shox.
With the other sides more settled in their line-ups, these individual performances are unlikely to have as big an impact in Cologne and so despite that fantastic result, G2 Esports may struggle to get further than the quarter-finals.
SK Gaming are the team to beat in Cologne. They have massive talent, great financial backing and a lot of experience working together and so their team unity is high.
They are certainly the favourites for the tournament and the likely winners.
However a number of teams will be looking to knock them off their perch. Fnatic with the return of Olofmeister are a different team to the previous majors where he was suffering from injury.
Natus Vincere will also fancy their chances following the second place finish in the MLG Major Championship Columbus.
If you’re looking for a long odds bet from the challengers, G2 Esports recent impressive victory could give them some hope and Gambit Gaming are showing some impressive skills that could take them far.Start Betting at Betway eSports
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