As IEM Sydney advances into the playoffs, we find ourselves with six teams that have successfully navigated their way to the stage. Each team brings its unique narrative, and as they prepare to engage in fierce competition, let us look at the top contenders who are poised to lift the trophy here in Australia.
The year 2023 has unquestionably marked a triumphant period for G2 Esports. Since their resounding victory at the BLAST World Finals in December of the previous year— which brought a decisive end to a seemingly interminable championship drought— they’ve vanquished their historical adversaries and, in doing so, captured their first major title in three years. In the period since, this G2 lineup has managed to clinch prestigious titles in Katowice and Cologne, both of which rank highly among the most esteemed tournaments, rivaled only by the majors. Furthermore, their consistency extends to other events, where they persistently emerge as strong contenders.
Image Credit: G2 CS
Historically, G2 has solidified itself as a team that thrives on momentum, and their performance in Sydney is no exception. Thus far, they have maintained an impeccable record, conquering adversaries such as Grayhound, Complexity, and ENCE without conceding a single map. Their dominance has been so pronounced that, aside from their match against Grayhound, none of their opponents have come within striking distance of reaching the double-digit round count. This resounding performance places G2 firmly among the top contenders vying for the IEM Sydney championship.
Much of this success can be attributed to their young gunman Ilya "m0NESY" Osipov, who seems to be thriving in CS2. m0NESY currently stands atop the individual player statistics, boasting an extraordinary 1.44 rating across four maps. Toting the big green, he’s been exceptionally influential during the offensive, maintaining a staggering 1.55 rating on the T-side. Meanwhile, star rifler, Nikola "NiKo" Kovač , although acknowledging he’s not performing at his individual peak, in an interview with HLTV where he said: “For myself, As of right now, I don't feel the best individually. I definitely need way more time. I did expect this as well. Maybe for some players, it just feels a little bit better. I think for me, it’s probably like if I thought less and just actually focused on shooting and doing my own thing, it would have been better. But I am just focused way more on reactive things and helping the team.” He has continued to make substantial contributions with a respectable 1.28 rating in this tournament. In tandem, the individuals of G2 have thrust their team to the top spot in this event, with a team rating of 1.16.
G2 has already secured their berth in the semifinals and is now just one step away from clinching a coveted spot in the tournament final. The upcoming challenge, or this subsequent step, doesn’t appear insurmountable; they’re slated to face the winner of the Complexity and BetBoom matchup. Given the standards G2 has set, this contest should be well within their grasp, positioning it as their match to lose. However, considering G2's choking reputation, it wouldn’t be entirely unforeseen if they encountered significant hurdles in these high-pressure matches. Yet, they retain their status as the favorites to emerge triumphant in this event.
It’s apparent that FaZe Clan has been grappling with a decline in their recent performance. Following the departure of their coaching staff, the team has encountered a noticeable drop in their competitive edge. This decline extends beyond tactical aspects, encompassing a palpable psychological toll on the team. While the exact extent of Robert "RobbaN" Dahlström and Viacheslav "innersh1ne" Britvin's absence's impact remains uncertain, it’s undeniably evident that their absence has adversely affected the team. FaZe’s recent finishes at IEM Cologne and ESL Pro League Season 18, landing them in the 9th-12th position, and subsequent 9th-16th placement at Gamers8, underscores the diminishing prowess of this international powerhouse.
Image Credit: ESLCS
Star rifler Russel "Twistzz" Van Dulken has attributed their underwhelming performance to the looming presence of CS2. He emphatically stressed the toll it has taken on their motivation. In a statement on X, he said “Unfortunately for me, my motivation dropped a lot with CS2 always being in my mind. The effort to find new things, a new smoke or flash, knowing that it will be useless at any time because of the unknown release date of the new game, and also playing the new game and knowing the issues it has at the moment, I let this impact me and I now I end CSGO with a performance I will regret having.”
Nonetheless, notwithstanding their recent struggles, FaZe Clan has intermittently displayed flashes of their true potential in Sydney. Despite a heart-wrenching overtime loss to GamerLegion in the BO1, they’ve made a resurgence — subduing the best team in the world, Vitality. Followed by a win over a crippled NAVI; playing without s1mple, and then securing their place in the playoffs by vanquishing the fiery GamerLegion, this time in a BO3. A significant portion of this commendable resurgence can be attributed to their star AWPer, who has unequivocally recaptured his form.
Helvijs "broky" Saukants currently occupies the fifth position among individual players with an exceptionally impressive 1.26 rating. Furthermore, an element that has contributed significantly to FaZe Clan's success, as was eloquently attested during the PGL Antwerp Major, revolves around the resurgence of rain, who has unmistakably rediscovered his competitive form. In the ongoing event, he boasts an impressive 1.21 rating, a testament to his regained prowess. If Twistzz, too, manages to recapture his former glory, the potential for FaZe Clan to become an unstoppable force, looms on the horizon.
The journey through the playoffs, without a doubt, promises to present a myriad of formidable challenges. Nevertheless, for FaZe Clan, these seemingly overwhelming obstacles are conceivably feasible — especially with a rejuvenated performance. Furthermore, it’s imperative to take into account FaZe's performance in LANs transcends their online showings, lending an additional dimension of confidence. Their first playoff opponents will be ENCE, a team who secured their playoff berth by vanquishing Lynn Vision and fnatic. Nonetheless, their overall performance lags behind FaZe, evident by their team rating of 1.06; casting doubts on their prospects in the impending CS2 era. Subsequently, FaZe will contend against Mouz, who triumphed over NaVi, Vertex, and Betboom. In the absence of Jimi "Jimpphat" Salo, FaZe is undoubtedly the favored team in this matchup.
Feature Image Credit: ESL