How did the Americas fare in Antwerp?
The PGL Antwerp Major has finally entered the Champions Stage with FURIA being the sole Americas team in a playoff bracket full of European and CIS competition. With an underwhelming performance from Complexity to an impressive run from Imperial that few predicted, the Americas certainly had a lot of talking points but, at the end of the day, just how did the Americas fare in Antwerp?
Liquid - Just not good enough
Often touted as the peak of current North American Counter-Strike, many envisioned a far greater showing from Liquid than what was actually displayed, with at least a win to their name in the Legends stage being the bare minimum expectation.
We saw Liquid struggle in the Challengers stage, barely making it through by the skin of their teeth after completing the reverse sweep, taking down an out-of-shape Astralis in the elimination matchup to keep their Major dreams alive. Outside of this game, Nick "nitr0" Cannella's men just showed very little promise for this roster, being comfortably taken down by G2 and Imperial, with the aforementioned reverse sweep being versus the likes of 9z, their North American compatriots of Complexity who have also been a let-down, and the Astralis who are shadows of their former selves.
Better yet, saw the side also bowed out in dead last of the Legends stage after three, straight losses to Heroic, FURIA, and Vitality. While these defeats aren't too much of a surprise given the stature of their opponents, their performance as a whole throughout the tournament just wasn't up to par for an organization that was once the best in the world just a few years ago.
While their form with this new iteration of Liquid has been mixed, people expected the squad to show some promise in what was arguably the biggest event of the year. Even more upsetting is the fact that Liquid performed better at the PGL Stockholm Major last year, and the roster that competed there is most well-known for their lackluster showings throughout the entirety of 2021, culminating in the lineup undergoing the biggest shakeup in Liquid's CS:GO history.
Head coach Eric "adreN" Hoag spoke to Dust2.us after their elimination at the hands of Vitality, explaining that it's "hard to play our best CS right now". Whatever is plaguing the lineup needs to be ironed out - and soon - or the issues that hampered their performance at the Major will continue to rear their ugly heads long into the foreseeable future.
Complexity - Definitely not 50/50
With an average age of 21.7 years heading into the Major, Complexity were always going to have to fight an uphill battle versus the more experienced competition also in attendance. But, to put it bluntly, Johnny "JT" Theodosiou and company failed to make even a dent in their armor of their foes whilst there, continuously being torn apart by teams that would have definitely expected more of a fight from the young roster.
Only making an appearance in the Challengers stage, Complexity's short-lived campaign was rather lacking in positive takeaways, being absolutely trounced by Vitality in their debut before being taken down by both Outsiders and Liquid. Their sole win while in Belgium came a hard-fought battle against Mongolian side IHC who were often the go-to choice for the 0-3 slot of many people's Pick'Ems, hardly a victory you can be riding high from.
While this was the first Major for four of the five Complexity boys meaning we can cut them some slack, it's still disappointing to see that only Ricky "floppy" Kemery went positive at the event with a 1.08 rating. In comparison, the second-best player of the lineup was Justin "FaNg" Coakley with a modest 0.99 rating. In addition, their AWPer, Paytyn "junior" Johnson, was nowhere to be seen, posting a dismal 0.71 rating whilst also missing key shots - something that can't happen for those whose job it is to wield the big green.
Perhaps it's simply a case of nerves and inexperience coming into play, or perhaps it's something much deeper. But with Complexity being one of a handful of teams carrying the North American flag throughout their international tours, they will need to produce more promising results if they're to really contend for the top spot of the NA hierarchy.
Imperial - Surpassing expectations
While Complexity are one of the youngest rosters in attendance, Imperial sit completely on the other end of the spectrum as the oldest by clocking in at 28.4 years old on average, making their strong performance at the Major even more surprising given the usual decline of performance as one gets older - at least in CS:GO.
With many expecting the Brazilian roster to simply play their three games of the Challenger stage and head home, it definitely raised some eyebrows when they took down Liquid with relative ease in the 0-1 game. Moving forward, a close loss to Bad News Eagles was also expected, with that team brimming with confidence in recent times. With a 1-2 record and with elimination breathing down their necks, the Brazilians turned it up a notch, taking down IHC to pass the first hurdle before overpowering the Russian side, forZe, to make it to the Legends stage, a surprising storyline for a squad many expected to flounder.
Once there, despite already likely being content with making it that far, the Brazilians decided to turn it up a gear, narrowly losing to BIG and G2 before getting their revenge over BNE to keep the hype train going. With elimination still on the cards, Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo and co. then upset Cloud9 to send the CIS squad packing from the Major, a team that currently resides in the Top 5 of HLTV's world rankings. This shocking victory wasn't a hard-fought, scrappy battle either, with Imperial trouncing the CIS heavyweights 16-3 on the third map to be one best-of-three away from a ticket to the Antwerps Sportpaleis. Unfortunately, however, all good things must end, and a determined Copenhagen Flames ultimately sent the side home in 9th-11th place.
While a 9th-12th place finish in Belgium wasn't the back-to-back Major championships of 2016, it was easily one of the more positive storylines to come from an Americas team at the Major. A team of veterans going toe-to-toe with the young guns of Europe and CIS, proving that age can be just a number after all.
MIBR - A good attempt with potential for more
MIBR were a question mark coming into the Major, with a change in coaching staff and a stagnation of performance prior to the event painting a pretty bleak picture in regards to overall expectations. Despite this, however, MIBR did show some potential with all three of their defeats being close affairs against solid European and CIS rosters.
MIBR's opening day of the Major was mixed, coming away with a 1-1 record after a 16-14 win and loss to 9z and Outsiders, respectively. Whilst the 9z game should have been an easier time, their narrow defeat to the CIS squad was a pleasant surprise given the difference in rankings between the two sides. Moving forward, MIBR then gave Astralis a bloody nose after taking thirteen rounds of the Danish squad in their day two loss before taking down Eternal Fire in two, straight maps to stave off elimination. Despite being 2-2 and within spitting distance of a spot in the Legends stage alongside their Imperial big brothers, MIBR lost 2-1 to Bad News Eagles, a team who appear to be the Brazilian kryptonite at the Major.
Statistically, the squad performed well, seeing four of the five players posting positive ratings with Jhonatan "JOTA" Willian leading the way with a 1.16 rating. As for Adriano "WOOD7" Cerato, however, his time in Antwerp was far from ideal with the 26-year-old posting a meager 0.86 rating across the event. While he is the in-game leader and so we can normally expect there to be more leniency with expectations, but it's still a rating that definitely played a part in MIBR's inability to progress further. In fact, enough in MIBR's opinion that the org announced today they would be removing WOOD7 from the starting lineup.
Nonetheless, while the first six months of the year have been turbulent for the Brazilian team results-wise, this was one of their better showings and it came at the right time with the Major often being the biggest and most important events year after year. While the lineup will certainly rue not stealing away those close games versus Astralis and Outsiders, it did show that MIBR have what it takes to tussle with some of the more established European teams.
9z - The end of the Cinderella run
While 9z's story of making the Major was special and while it was monumental for the South American region, there was never any chance of the 9z camp ever making it beyond the Challengers stage. For 9z to continue that story and beat some of the best teams in the world, some extraordinarily rare upsets would have to have occurred.
Starting their PGL Antwerp Major run with a game against ENCE summed up the challenge 9z faced perfectly, with the South American side being dwarfed by a European titan. And as expected, the South American representatives failed to make their foes work hard for their victory with the side being crushed 16-7 by the well-oiled machine of ENCE. Any chance of a reverse sweep to the Legends stage happening for Luca "Luken" Nadotti's boys was quickly put to bed with the side falling to both MIBR and Liquid shortly thereafter, thus closing the chapter of 9z's miracle run to the Major.
It was always a tall order for 9z to do anything more than go 0-3. A sole, consolation win would have been a welcome sight but making it out of the RMR and into the Major itself was good enough. Whether they'll be able to utilize this experience in the future and return to the Major circuit in better shape is yet to be seen, but for now, they head home with as good a performance as they ever could have realistically shown.
With FURIA the only Americas team remaining, the eyes of both North and South America will be on them to try and make a deep run. As for the teams that have already been eliminated, it's a mixed bag. Complexity and Liquid will definitely have been hoping for a better placing, while Imperial head home with a sound showing further adding to their already deity-like status amongst the Brazilian fan base.
FURIA will start their playoff campaign with a quarterfinal matchup versus Spirit, scheduled to kick off on Thursday at 02:00PM.