IEM Sydney is almost upon us and with that comes the beginning of tier one Counter-Strike 2 action. The first IEM Sydney since 2019, although it might be on at unusual times for a typical Counter-Strike event, it will be an exciting return to one of Counter-Strike’s greatest crowds.
A new game, no one knows exactly what to suspect, but we’re willing to bet that with MR12 best of ones, there could just be a ton of unexpected results. Oh, and definitely a whole bunch of shoeys once we reach the playoff stage.
There’s two groups to look at, so we’ve decided to split our preview into two articles. With that said, how about we begin with Group A?
Given the recent announcement of the departure of Danny "zonic" Sorensen, normally when a coach leaves a team, we’d say we don’t know what to expect of a team at their next event, but this is Vitality we’re talking about.
Winners of IEM Rio, Gamers8 and the BLAST.tv Paris Major, they’re one of just two teams to win multiple event trophies this year, and given Mathieu "ZywOo" Herbaut’s massive performances on LAN this year, they also have the best player in the world on their team too.
When you add into that the rifle trio of Lotan "Spinx" Giladi, Emil "Magisk" Reif, and Shahar "flameZ" Shushan, they have some of the scariest firepower ever assembled, and the continually surprising brain of Dan "apEX" Madesclaire knows how to use that firepower to it’s utmost potential.
They may have lost zonic, but all but one of these players is now a Major winner, and in the case of apEX and Magisk, they’ve both got multiple Major trophies under their belts. This team knows how to win, and the loss of their coach will not affect them as it would other teams.
A favorite for the entire event, their opening game is against BetBoom, so they should be able to claim a good win to start off their event.
Moving onto Vitality’s opening opponents, we have BetBoom. Since the formation of this roster, it’s been only a matter of time since we saw them at a tier one LAN, and Sydney will be that time.
For the initiated, the main story of this roster comes with it’s in-game leader, Vladislav "nafany" Gorshkov and his redemption arc following his removal from Cloud9. Simply making a LAN is not enough to reassert his skills as a leader, and an opening game versus Vitality isn’t the nicest game he could’ve asked for, but one game won’t decide the tournament for BetBoom.
Backed up by Aleksandr "zorte" Zagodryenko, he has one of his nation’s best AWPing talent and a win condition against Vitality. There’s also a Major semi finalist in Pavel "s1ren" Ogloblin, formerly of Spirit, and a prodigy who made the playoffs of IEM Katowice in his very first tier one event, Aleksandr "KaiRON-" Anashkin.
The talent is there for this BetBoom to succeed, the question now is whether this event will be the start of something great for the team.
We’ve been fairly positive about the first two teams on this list, so how about we bring that down a notch? Is it going too far to say we’re a little tired of the mediocrity of FaZe Clan?
Seriously, outside of winning ESL Pro League Season 17 and reaching the quarter finals of the BLAST.tv Paris Major, what has this team actually achieved this year? It’s really not much, yet we still look at them as a favorite for every event they attend because of a perceived greatness that we’re not sure even still exists.
This lineup has fallen flat, and although Robin "ropz" Kool and Russel "Twistzz" Van Dulken are still in form, that’s about as good as it gets for the team. Helvjis "broky" Saukaunts is dull for a supposed star AWPer and Havaard "rain" Nygaard is close to be a liability.
They might still make the playoffs, but with NAVI, MOUZ, and Vitality also all in their group, it could just as easily be another LAN that FaZe walks away from disappointed. Their opening game against GamerLegion is favorably, particularly because of the recent arrival of Janusz "Snax" Pogorzelski, but there might not be much joy after that.
Speaking of the arrival of Snax, we’re quite confused about that one. Sure, we can only speculate on what was going on inside the GamerLegion camp, but given the fact they lost the two most important figures of the team in Kamil "siuhy" Szkaradek and Ivan "iM" Mihai, we were quite impressed by the form shown thus far with Sebastian "volt" Malos and Sanzhar "neaLaN" Ishkahov.
This isn’t to say the move is bad, it might be a masterstroke, but it does feel odd to be digging up a 30-year-old Snax from the wilderness he has been lost in.
Still, the rest of the team has talent within it, and both volt and Fredrik "acoR" Gyldstrand have been strong in recent months, reaching the playoffs might be difficult, but just as with the other events they’ve attended since the Major, GamerLegion will continue to prove their worth.
We were just as surprised as everyone else when NAVI announced the additions of Aleksi "Aleksib" Virolainen, Justinas "jL" Lekavicius, and iM, but now a few months into the project, we get why they did it.
Sure, the team may still be needing more of the form from iM that enticed NAVI to sign him in the first place, but things are looking up for the Romanian in the yellow and black.
Plus, regardless of what people say, Aleksib continues to make teams stronger, and that second-place finish at Pro League is as good as NAVI have looked all year. Perhaps even since they won BLAST Premier Spring Final 2022.
A lot still relies on Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev returning to the form that made him the greatest of all time, but Valeriy "b1t" Vakhovskiy stepping up is easing the load on the Undertaker’s shoulders. Not that any of that matters though, NAVI will be without the GOAT for Sydney and coach Andrey "B1ad3" Gorodenskiy will be playing in his place.
There’s no doubt B1ad3 was once a great player, and he remains one of the greatest minds Counter-Strike has ever seen, but we struggle to see how he can have an impact as a player in Sydney. Before this announcement, we would have said NAVI were one of the favorites, now, we aren’t even sure if they’ll make it out of their group.
As for NAVI’s first opponents, Apeks, we’re not ashamed to say we have no idea what to expect from this team. In our eyes, Martin "STYKO" Styk was key to how they played, and we’re not sure Adne "sense" Fredriksen is fit to replace him. At least not yet anyway.
Joakim "jkaem" Myrbostad has been in fine form in the past three months while Tim “nawwk” Jonasson remains a solid component, but those two alone aren’t enough to carry Apeks fine in a tournament.
Apeks, sadly, are one of our favorites to be departing this event early.
Who would’ve thought that a team with an average age of 20 could look so dangerous? Winners of ESL Pro League Season 18, MOUZ won ten maps in a row on their run to doing so, and their fourth place in the HLTV ranking is more than deserved.
David "frozen" Cernansky has been one of the best riflers in the world for the past couple of years, but he’s stepped up a gear since the arrival of siuhy, and he isn’t even the biggest changer.
Adam "torzsi" Torzsas has been a revolution since linking up again with his former MOUZ NXT captain, and his performances in the past three months puts him up there with the best AWPers in the world.
Add on continually impressive Jimi "Jimpphat" Salo and Dorian "xertioN" Berman, and MOUZ’s roster is suddenly starting to look as formidable as any team in the entire world, and we’re willing to bet that the win at Pro League is just the start.
Unfortunately though, they may have to wait a little longer than Sydney to claim their next event win. Bram "Nexius" Campana will be stepping in for Jimpphat at the event due to visa issues, and we’d be very impressed if he can play even half as well as the young Finn. Don’t count them out though, it’s not like they’re playing with B1ad3, Nexius is at least currently playing professionally.
The lowest ranked team in the group, VERTEX have a tough opening fixture against MOUZ, and given how Australian teams typically do at international events, we won’t hold out much hope for them for any game after that being much easier.
It is a home event for them though, so that could spur them on to greatness. Liam "malta" Schembri has the experience to know what it takes, while Jared "hazr" O’Bree and Christian "ADDICT" Pendleton are two of the finest players in the region, it’s not outside of the realms of possibility.
Sydney has seen magic from Australian sides before, VERTEX will be hoping they can bring that magic once again.