After a failed rendezvous with destiny at the Rio Major, FURIA is free-falling into irrelevance. Can a strong transfer window put Brazil's finest back in tournament contention?
Within the professional Counter-Strike: Global Offensive scene, FURIA's decline is one of the hottest stories in 2023. A title contender for large portions of 2022, the Brazilian quintet failed to address its ever-growing tactical deficits and inconsistency, which progressively worsened after a failed Major title run on home soil. Kaike "KSCERATO" Cerato is still in contention for the title of best rifler in the world, and Yuri "yuurih" Santos is a world-class partner. Still, the duo is faltering as FURIA's structural issues prevented the roster from rising above their role as the "big fish" in the small pond that is America's CS:GO today.
With the transition to CS2 getting closer and closer, FURIA will be aiming to restructure their roster ahead of the second half of the year to once again compete for the LAN titles, which still elude them six years after their first appearance in Counter-Strike.
A prophecy unfulfilled: FURIA's 2022 and Rio Major heartbreak
FURIA's 2022 was projected to be the year of the organization's return to the upper echelons of the Counter-Strike scene, with the signing of highly-rated AWPer Rafael "saffee" Costa allowing the team to field a primary AWPer for the first time since Paytyn "junior" Johnson's benching in June of 2021. While the quintet would not reach the high bar of winning trophies set by the new signing in an interview with HLTV.org, a strong year saw them reach playoffs at the PGL Major in Antwerp and secure Big Event top-fours at EPL Season 15 and IEM Dallas, taking multiple high-ranking European scalps in the process.
While results slowed down in the year's second half, FURIA still secured a place at the Rio Major with relative ease. Spurred on by an arena filled with Brazilian fans, the team secured a spot in the top-16 with a 3-1 score in the Challengers Stage, an overtime loss against BIG after leading 12-3 at the half being their only stumble. However, the Legends Stage saw FURIA showcase their true potential, with the Brazilian team dominating ENCE and BIG and edging out Team Spirit en route to a 3-0 score. With KSCERATO in all-time great form and yuurih seemingly peaking at the right moment, the Brazilians seemed destined to secure the title and finally establish themselves as the heirs to SK's winning legacy.
A 2-1 win over NAVI in the quarterfinals, the CIS outfit considered the primary contender for the trophy, only served to increase the pressure and expectations to dangerously high levels. FURIA then took the fight to Heroic with a packed Jeunesse Arena behind them, secured a 1-0 lead by stealing the Danes' map pick of Inferno, and recovered from a 7-15 deficit to force overtime on Ancient. However, the fairytale wasn't to be as FURIA only won seven more rounds between Ancient and Nuke, and Casper "cadiaN" Møller silenced the Brazilian crowd.
An unexpected decline and a new identity: FURIA's 2023 struggles
In part due to not being a BLAST Partner Team, FURIA took a break until the following year: when the Brazilian outfit returned, it was clear that the Rio peaks were long-gone. KSCERATO's team failed to qualify for IEM Katowice after a loss to the Mongolians of IHC, survived their EPL group en route to a top-twelve finish, although with a single win against a top-15 team in fnatic, and recorded an astonishing BO3 loss against EG Black. FURIA's first three months were so disappointing that the team overhauled their entire playstyle to try and adapt a more European-like passive gameplan.
A first-place finish at the Americas RMR for the BLAST Paris Major, with convincing wins over Liquid and paiN, immediately followed by a playoff finish at IEM Rio, taking down #2-ranked FaZe. All hopes of a Brazilian resurgence under the new style were unfortunately immediately dashed as FURIA failed to secure more than eight rounds in four maps at the French Major, exiting the tournament without a single win to their name, and recorded losses to a stand-in hindered OG and MOUZ in Dallas.
Adding insult to injury, in-game leader Andrei "arT" Piovezan complained about playing with "too much strategy" after their opening-round loss. For FURIA as an organization, both the long-time captain's statements, suggesting an incompatibility between his approach to the game and the more passive style coach Nicholas "guerri" Nogueira had tried to implement, and the general performance of the quintet will justify the seemingly inevitable roster changes which will take place in the next months.
Change for change's sake? A new-look FURIA and its tactical hiccups
Two months after FURIA revealed their intention to shift playstyles to the public, the new "passive" FURIA struggles to show meaningful changes on the server. arT is still the team's primary space creator on both sides. Still, his success in opening duels has dropped significantly throughout 2023, with the Brazilian recording a pitiful 23% T-side success rate in his team's Paris Major campaign. While KSCERATO and yuurih are both elite round closers, FURIA routinely has to enter the mid-round with a man disadvantage because arT's often uncoordinated aggression doesn't facilitate trading.
The team's latest additions, André "drop" Abreu and saffee, have also struggled to adapt to the tier-one competition. The young rifler was his team's worst-performing player in 2022 but took a further nosedive into the new year, recording bottom-of-the-scene numbers in all relevant metrics. While these unsustainably low numbers are in part a consequence of the drop's anchor positions, a 0.86 HLTV CT-side rating (only beaten by Rasmus "HooXi" Nielsen and Johnny "JT" Theodosiou) leaves him as the primary liability in a side that already struggles on the offensive side.
The AWPer's case is more complicated, as saffee's numbers have remained in line with his disappointing 2022. While the Brazilian does not have the pedigree of FURIA's last true star AWPer, Henrique "HEN1" Teles, he cannot be asked to be a factor in round openings in a system heavily relying on arT's aggressiveness. A comparison to his time in paiN, which put him in the spotlight for international fans, might be more telling: while saffee never was an aggressive T-side threat, he was more proactive on the defensive side.
A Jaguar on the prowl: FURIA's options in the summer transfer market
One of the primary goals for the Brazilian organization will be to restructure their team around a new leader, potentially allowing arT to focus on his individual performance. In this sense, FURIA has allegedly already been active on the market, getting involved in a transfer war with paiN and Imperial to secure the services of two-time Major Winner Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo. FalleN's calling has kept up with the meta and can still be considered one of the best in the region. His individual performance, especially in his sporadic international appearances, is nothing to write home about, but FURIA's leading stars have already proven not to be AWP-dependent.
The interesting candidates don't stop there: should Rodrigo "biguzera" Bittencourt be aiming to continue as an IGL, a position he has filled in paN since Vinicios "PKL" Coelho's self-benching in February, he would be a hard target to acquire. The captaincy has not impacted biguzera's performance, and the rifler put in a series of impressive performances at the Paris Major. Similarly, MIBR's Raphael "exit" Lacerda successfully transitioned from star rifler to IGL without losing his prowess and could represent another interesting option. However, he would have to forfeit some of his T-side positions.
Furthermore, FURIA should look to replace drop with a player who can contribute more to the system. Luckily for the Brazilian outfit, there's plenty of talent to pick from, starting with the usual suspects Felipe "skullz" Medeiros and Felipe "insani" Yuji. However, assuming the new leadership can help revitalize arT, FURIA will need a serviceable CT-side anchor and T-side pack player rather than another star, criteria Fernando "fer" Alvarenga, who has been rumored to be under consideration, doesn't fully fit.
Our first pick for the position would be 00NATION's Bruno "latto" Rebelatto, whose stock has fallen since his GODSENT days but remains a talented and impactful player who isn't afraid of putting the team first. Fluxo's Lucas "Lucaozy" Neves would be harder to integrate but has shown a very strong ceiling in his team's 2023, while Vinicius "VINI" Figuereido might be looking to reunite with his long-time teammates and represents the most proven and ready-made option.