IEM Cologne 2022 was an action-packed tournament that brought an end to the first half of the year for Counter-Strike. With the summer break upon us, some teams can rest up feeling satisfied. However, certain teams do not have that luxury, and changes within their lineups may be imminent. We’ve picked out six winners and six losers from IEM Cologne 2022
Winners: FaZe & Counter-Strike fans
2021 was the year of Natus Vincere; they were incredibly dominant - winning the sole Major of the year and also taking home the million-dollar bonus for winning Season 3 of the Intel Grandslam. Heading into 2022, all teams were looking to topple the Ukrainian behemoth. One of those teams was FaZe Clan, who acquired Robin “ropz” Kool to replace the aging Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer. Early in the year, they were successful, winning IEM Katowice, ESL Pro League Season 15, and the Major - PGL Major Antwerp.
Whether it be because of the Ukraine conflict or the circumstances that eventually led to the removal of Kirill “Boombl4” Mikhailov, Natus Vincere did not start 2022 in the red-hot form they ended 2021 in. The European squad took the mantle away from them at the top of the Counter-Strike scene until BLAST Spring Final 2022, where Viktor “sdy” Orudzhev stood in for the Natus Vincere side. They lifted the trophy in Lisbon and entered Cologne looking to end the year on a high.
Despite the trophy haul being 3-1 in favor of FaZe for 2022, Natus Vincere and FaZe have met four times in 2022, and the score is 2-2. The Ukrainian side won 2-1 at Katowice and 2-0 at the BLAST Spring Final, whereas FaZe came out on top 2-0 at the Major in Antwerp and Pro League. They met for the fifth time in the Grand Finals in Cologne. This was the perfect culmination for the first half of the year - two teams that were fighting for the number one spot and one best-of-five to decide who would be the best team in the world heading into the Summer break.
Natus Vincere won in Cologne last year, can they manage to defend their crown, or will FaZe make it the treble; and become the first team to win Katowice, Cologne, and the Major in a single year?
It was a blockbuster grand final; all five maps went the whole distance. The deciding map was Nuke, and it went down to the wire but ended in favor of the international squad thanks to heroics from Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken in the dying moments of the series. After this win, Finn “karrigan” Andersen said in an interview with HLTV.org - “There’s no discussion that we’re the best team in the world” and he is not wrong; faze entered the Summer break as the number-one team undoubtedly.
It was a monumental final and one for the ages - IEM Cologne 2022’s final became the most-watched non-major final Counter-Strike match of all time. So, you could say that the fans of this beautiful game are the true winners.
Three years ago, when they were ranked outside the top twenty teams in the world, BIG made the final of ESL One Cologne 2018. This was a massive achievement for the German squad and it showed the true power of home crowd advantage. In 2022, now ranked amongst the top ten teams in the world, BIG looked to have another strong result in Cologne.
BIG entered the IEM Cologne 2022 Play-In fresh off a tournament victory at the Roobet Cup. This tournament was held online but still held weight due to the immense competition the Germans had to beat out like Cloud9 and FaZe. Therefore, BIG failing to make the main event was not even considered, and it came as a huge surprise when they fell at the hands of Astralis to fall short of IEM Cologne.
This came as a huge disappointment for the German team as we are sure they would have loved to play in front of their home crowd. BIG has struggled to show anything meaningful in a LAN environment for a long while and Johannes “tabseN” Wodarz’s men will enter the Summer break with a heavy heart following their exit in Germany.
Winners: Movistar Riders & Alvaro “SunPayus” Garcia
Movistar Riders were the shock team of the tournament and performed above expectations the community and pundits set. Fresh off a victory at ESL Challenger Valencia, the Riders continued that momentum by qualifying for the IEM Cologne through the Play-In. They took their first upset at the Play-In, handily beating Vitality in two maps to gain their berth to the main event.
Image: Copyright ESL | [Helena Kristiansson]
They started their Cologne against G2, where they again proved a tough team to beat. Alvaro “SunPayus” Garcia was instrumental in this series and vital to the Spanish side’s success at this competition. Despite narrowly losing out to Natus Vincere, the Iberian side made the Lanxess arena after beating out the French/Danish Vitality once again. Making the Playoff stage is a huge achievement for Alejandro "alex" Masanet Candela’s men and winning their Quarter Final bout against Liquid ensured they would never forget their time in Cologne.
Movistar Riders eventually fell short against Finn “karrigan” Andersen’s FaZe in the Semi-finals. Still, this run will undoubtedly be remembered as the first time this Spanish side showed up on a global stage. Hopefully, the Riders can continue this form into the year's second half.
Complexity entered 2022 with a new American project and it has struggled to get off the ground. In Germany, the Dallas Cowboys-backed organization increased its losing streak to ten, facing another last-place exit at the IEM Cologne 2022 Play-In.
They started their Cologne campaign with a loss to Spirit, followed up with elimination at the hands of Astralis. Failing to make the main event is not acceptable for an organization as big as Complexity but was not that much of a shock for the Counter-Strike community. Johnny “JT” Theodosiou’s men have failed to make a meaningful impact at any of the tournaments they have attended since their inception and something needs to change.
These results are incredibly disappointing and surely mean changes are on the horizon for this Complexity side.
2022 has been Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander’s worst year at Astralis and it was 2020 the last time he and Astralis won a Counter-Strike event. That shows how far this star-studded organization has fallen. Following a terrible start to 2022, many expected that roster moves were on the way after the Summer break. While changes may still be occurring, the Astralis squad managed to have a solid result in Germany.
Image: Copyright ESL | [Helena Kristiansson]
For the first time since the BLAST Premier Fall Final in Copenhagen back in November last year, Astralis returned to the playoffs in Cologne. As usual, Benjamin “blameF” Bremer was instrumental for the Danish side. Cologne saw fellow ex-Complexity man Kristian “k0nfig” Wienecke step up alongside him and push Astralis to a Semi-final in the Spodek.
They eventually fell at the hands of Natus Vincere, but their Quarter Final victory against MOUZ and return to the arena could give some of their players' much-needed confidence and motivation for the rest of the year. Whether we see a new Astralis or not next time they join the server, this result in Cologne was a step forward for the Danish squad.
Losers: G2 Esports
This G2 lineup started the year off with so much excitement around them. They had just signed young Russian prodigy Ilya "m0NESY" Osipov as well as Finnish leader Aleksi "Aleksib" Virolainen. Expectations were high, and at their first event, IEM Katowice 2022, they made the final, only being bested by the new-look FaZe. This was hugely exciting as it seemed the Spanish organization finally had a roster capable of winning championships.
Sadly, things have started to unravel for the European squad, Nikola “NiKo” Kovač’s form has not been the same as 2021, and therefore the G2 side has failed to match their final appearance since their debut at IEM Katowice. They finished 9-12th at IEM Cologne, a disappointing result for a roster stacked with so much talent.
These poor results will not stand with G2 being as cut-throat as they are, so roster changes may be considered to turn this roster around. As previously reported, G2 explored potential replacements for leader Aleksi "Aleksib" Virolainen and coach Remy "XTQZZZ" Quoniam. Therefore, the European side could have a very different look heading into the year's second half.
Winners: Liquid & Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski
If we look back to 2019, Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski was the number four ranked player in the world, Liquid was in a tight fight for trophies with Astralis and North American Counter-Strike had never been better. Flash forward to 2022, post-COVID-19 pandemic, North American Counter-Strike is not in as strong a place, and the Liquid side is no longer the championship contending squad they once were.
The first half of 2022 was fairly poor for the Dutch organization. Their new project with veteran Richard “Shox” Papillon and young sniper Josh “oSee” Ohm didn’t take off as expected and eventually led to the departure of the French legend before IEM Cologne 2022. The coaching department also saw a change; Damian “daps” Steele was added in place of Intel Grand Slam winning coach Eric “adreN” Hoag.
The removal of Richard “shox” Papillon left Liquid without a five-person roster heading to Germany. They sought help from Mareks “YEKINDAR” Gaļinskis, who had recently departed from Outsiders and would stand in for the team. This addition led to Liquid making their first playoff appearance in what seemed like forever, and despite losing to the shock of the tournament, Movistar Riders, this was a solid achievement for Nick “nitr0” Cannella’s side and a noticeable achievement from results before Mareks “YEKINDAR” Gaļinskis’s venture with the team.
Image: Copyright ESL | [Adela Sznajder]
It was also noted that Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski was back to his best at this event. This was put down to the space the young Latvian stand-in was creating for the American star. If Liquid does decide to add Mareks “YEKINDAR” Gaļinskis permanently to their starting roster, many will be excited to see what they can achieve in the second half of the year.
The Finnish organization’s first half of the year has been excellent. Their European project spearheaded by Danish leader Marco “Snappi” Pfeiffer has taken off and found unforeseen amounts of success. The addition of Pavle “Maden” Bošković has only furthered that, with the international squad making two tier-one finals this year - ESL Pro League Season 15 and IEM Dallas most recently.
Towards the Summer break, however, the ENCE lineup began to taper off. Whether the culprit was exhaustion or an evil spell of form, the last place exit at IEM Cologne 2022 is a disappointing finish for the team ranked number three in the world rankings.
Eetu “sAw” Saha’s troops will look to reset over the Summer break and return to their title-contending form.
The German organization’s first half of 2022 has been a disappointment. It has been over a year since Christopher “dexter” Nong’s men last reached the playoffs at a tier-one tournament. After the surprising exits of BIG and Sprout in the Play-In, Jon “JDC” de Castro was the sole German who remained alive in Cologne and was carrying the torch for German Counter-Strike. He certainly did his country proud as he helped propel his side to the Lanxess Arena, a massive achievement for this youthful MOUZ side.
Image: Copyright ESL | [Adela Sznajder]
In Cologne, after initially falling to Natus Vincere, MOUZ dispatched the new-look Heroic, Vitality, and finally NIP to complete their lower bracket and make the playoffs. They faced Astralis in their Quarter Final match, which was winnable considering Astralis’ similarly poor form in 2022. They fell 2-1, losing Nuke and Ancient to leave Cologne in 5-6th place. Despite not making it any further, this result is huge for this MOUZ squad, and assuming no roster changes are made; they will look to build upon this momentum into the second half of the year.
The last LAN event the Russian squad attended was IEM Dallas 2022, a tournament that saw the famed American roster lift their first trophy since their Major win in Boston four years ago. After their poor Major result, Konstantin “groove” Pikiner’s men were looking to carry on their momentum from Dallas and look to challenge for a trophy in Cologne once again.
It was not to be for Vladislav “nafany” Gorshkov and Co as they bombed out of IEM Cologne 2022 in 9-12th place, losing to a new-look Liquid with Mareks “YEKINDAR” Gaļinskis standing in. The Russian/Kazakhstan mix will look to turn their fortunes around over the Summer break and prove to the Counter-Strike world that on LAN, they can repeatedly challenge for titles at a tier-one level.
Replacing the now OG player Abdul “degster” Gasanov was always going to be a tall task. The Russian sniper was a key part of this Spirit side's success at the recent PGL Major Antwerp and has always been one of their best players. To replace him, the Spirit organization entrusted Igor “w0nderful” Zhdanov, a 17-year-old sniper from Ukraine. The Ukrainian fittingly has wonderful mechanics and did not look out of place in Germany.
Spirit qualified to IEM Cologne 2022 through the Play-In stage and was eventually knocked out of the main event in 9-12th place, with their only win coming against Team Liquid, who eventually made the playoffs. Their star Robert “Patsi” Isyanov looked in solid form in Cologne, and under the guidance of Leonid “chopper” Vishnyakov, Spirit had a solid first outing with their new AWP player.
Image: Copyright ESL | [Helena Kristiansson]
The CIS squad will look to build on this heading into the second half of the year, and be given more time to practice; a playoff appearance doesn’t seem too far away.
Heroic recently won the Pinnacle Cup Championship 2022. Still, given their performances on a tier-one stage, they weren’t satisfied, and decided changes were needed to alter the trajectory of their Counter-Strike roster. Heroic had stagnated for most of the year, and the replacement of Ismail “refrezh” Ali was done to propel themselves to be consistent title contenders.
The Danish side replaced the outgoing Ismail “refrezh” Ali with ex-Copenhagen Flames rifle star Jakob “jabbi” Nygaard. His arrival came with a lot of excitement, and with Heroic already being capable of making playoffs, his addition was expected to allow the Danes to take the next step and challenge for a trophy. Although the 18-year-old did have a solid debut tournament, qualifying for the main event through the Play-In, Casper “cadiaN” Møller’s men exited IEM Cologne 2022 in last place.
This is not where the Danes want to be, and given the short time they had with the new addition, it is excusable. After the Summer break, Heroic will look to return stronger and challenge for trophies with their new young-gun Jakob “jabbi” Nygaard.
Feature Image: Copyright ESL | [Helena Kristiansson]