There’s a lot of competition in the Challenger Stage. Which teams will move on and be the title Contenders?
The PGL Antwerp kicks off with the Challenger Stage, with 16 teams battling it out for a spot in the legends stage. We previously covered the Contender Squads at the major, let's now take a look at the Challenger teams at the Major.
ENCE: A Lock for the Playoffs
Coming into this event, ENCE is on a strong uptick of form. With Spinx putting up Event MVP level numbers, the squad is stepping up around him. The team is ready to make its mark at the biggest event of the year. Some of their pieces still lack the experience to make a run for the trophy. But in this phase of the tournament that won't be an issue. Snappi's squad is aiming for the playoffs and very few teams at the PGL Antwerp Challenger Stage can even challenge them.
G2 Esports: NiKo needs to perform
G2 Esports built their 2022 roster to follow NaVi's success from last year. So far however they have failed to live up to that billing. The biggest issue by far is the surprising drop in form from NiKo. The player who was in discussion for the best player in the world for a few months has suddenly dropped down to a 1.20 rating. While for an average player that is a career-high rating, for NiKo that is a slump.
If we can get a NiKo super event as we did at the last Major, then G2 might be looking at lifting the major trophy, but without him, getting through the playoffs is going to be tough. Nonetheless, they should make it through the PGL Antwerp Challenger Stage without an issue.
Astralis: Peaking at the Right Time?
Ever since Astralis picked up Farlig, they have been slowly improving. Not only did the AWPing presence get much stronger, but it has also seemingly freed up K0nfig and BlameF to put in their best performances. Xyp9x is still a massive issue on this team, but their immense experience and their strong star trio should carry them through the Challenger stage at PGL Antwerp. But expect some rough games and close wins that come down to a k0nfig 30-bomb.
Vitality: PGL Antwerp Challenger Stage is their Last Chance
Much like G2, this team was built to help ZywOo challenge S1mple. But that system falls apart the moment ZywOo goes from a 1.30 rating to a 1.15. Dupreeh has been amazing, Magisk is consistent, but the French core of the team needs to step up. Unlike NiKo however, ZywOo has a history of underperforming at the biggest events. So for Vitality, the outlook looks grim, but if anyone can rise up to the challenge, it is CS:GO's Chosen One ZywOo.
MIBR: No Chance at PGL Antwerp Challenger Stage
Made In Brazil is a team that has been constantly improving ever since they got the roster together. Unfortunately, when it comes to facing top-tier opposition, their only win was against NaVi at the start of the year in a Best of One. Starting off against Outsiders is rough, and their chances at this Major don't look much better. Unfortunately for Brazilian fans, Furia is the team to root for in this Major.
forZe: Jerry's Return to the Major
Jerry has been the best young CIS IGL for many years. While players like Jame and Boomb14 have had more success, Jerry's prowess over tactics is undeniable. Though he isn't on the big teams of the CIS region, his little mix bag of fraggers has shown capability. They relied on a lucky draw to get to the Major, but they have the potential to knock a favorite out of the running even if they don't make it through themselves.
Bad News Eagles: A Nation's Support Behind them
Bad News Eagles have been on a Cinderella run in the Major Qualification process. They are the first Kosovar team to make it to the major, but also one of the only orgless rosters to get their own stickers in the game. Unfortunately for them, Cinderalla runs don't last. They may get a couple of map wins off the back of rigoN and Juanflatroo, but there is almost no chance for them to get through the PGL Antwerp Challengers Stage.
Imperial: Yes FNX, still no Major
The Last Dance has had some troubles right before the major. Their coach Peacemaker was implicated in the upcoming Coach Bug Investigation and thus received a temporary suspension from the Major. The once legendary core is now the oldest team at the Major. That counts for a lot of experience, but they still lack firepower.
In this phase with the number of young teams, they have a chance to edge out games with their experience. But if it comes down to individual performance, Imperial aren't gonna get into the Legends stage even if they have their lucky charm in FNX.