ESL One: Road to Rio has now completed its last match. All six regions have found their winners – and their losers. Hundreds of games have taken place and there’s a lot to sift through. Some teams have performed as was expected from them, but the move to online play has shaken up an awful lot of teams. So it seems, at least.
Astralis and G2 Esports have topped their respective groups in the European portion of Road to Rio. In the end, the two met in the Grand Finals, where Astralis prevailed. In the North American part of the event, Gen.G. and FURIA made it to the Grand Finals, where the former powered through and secured a lot of points for their Major qualification. Road to Rio (as well as two unnamed events later this year) will count towards the ESL One: Rio 2020 Major. Since the official, offline qualification process had to be cancelled due to the current pandemic, ESL had to scramble to develop a replacement format. Now the first points have been handed out and some teams have already set their sights on the Major later this year.
The Surprise Performers
Team Heretics have not really been on anyone’s mind in recent time. When talking about French Counter Strike, the discussion usually focuses on Team Vitality and G2 Esports – and rightly so. But as of recently, Team Heretics have increasingly inserted themselves into the higher levels of CSGO. However, this is largely due to Bryan “Maka” Kanda’s contribution. At ESL One: Road to Rio, the player has placed himself amongst the likes of Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut and Nicolai “device” Reedtz in terms of HLTV ranking. Quite an astonishing feat!
In North America, FURIA and Gen.G. have decisively topped both their groups and the playoffs, culminating in an intense Grand Finals. While Gen.G were victorious overall, both teams have massively improved in recent time. Yuri “yuurih” Santos and Kaike “KSCERATO” Cerato have achieved 1.24 HTLV ratings during the event.
Another surprise performer comes in the form of Team Envy. To see them advancing in Group B over the likes of Team Liquid and MIBR was definitely not expected. The coaching from Nikola “LEGIJA” Ninic appears to be paying off, with Michal “MICHU” Müller and Buğra “Calix” Arkın both placing themselves amongst the Top-10 players in Road to Rio NA. This bodes well for the half American, half European mix-team.
The Disappointments from ESL One: Road to Rio
Natus Vincere have really dropped the ball on this one. Playing in the CIS portion of the event, the walk to the Grand Finals should have been an absolute cakewalk. Instead, the team faltered in the Group Stage already. Falling to the likes of Hard Legion and Syman, their run ended way before anyone could have anticipated. Still, Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev topped the player scoreboard with an otherworldly 1.40 HLTV rating and absolutely wiped the floor with his opponents. But his teammates remain long and far behind.
Oh, the irony on this one! Just recently, fnatic had been able to climb the #1 spot on the HLTV world rankings. They had been unable to achieve this ever since 2016, so obviously this was a big deal. Well, they’ve already been dethroned again, which comes as little surprise. At ESL One: Road to Rio, fnatic performed noticeably worse.
In the end, they had to fight for 11th place against Movistar Riders, which should have been an easy match for them. Indeed, fnatic started the first map off with a decisive lead. Movistar eventually clawed it back and in overtime, fnatic had lost their nerves quite a bit, which becomes apparent in the above Twitch clip. Well, if you ever needed proof that there is such a thing as karma… After that round, Movistar eventually took over the match and even beat fnatic with a 16-2 on the second map!
But fnatic are far from being the worst offenders in terms of performance. Mousesports got off to a historically bad start at ESL One: Road to Rio. Surely they weren’t planning on losing to Movistar Riders, North FaZe Clan and GODSENT during this event. North even fielded their coach as a stand-in!
Over the last two years, Team Liquid and Evil Geniuses (previously NRG) have been the sole international performers from NA. Apart from Cloud9’s surprise Major victory at the start of 2018, these two teams were the only ones finishing high at important events and even collecting some trophies. In the NA portion of Road to Rio, however, these two underperformed massively. Liquid barely made it out of their group, losing to FURIA and Team Envy. Evil Geniuses didn’t even manage to achieve that, losing to Cloud9, 100 Thieves and Gen.G in the process.
Liquid eventually managed to slot into the 4th place, which is still not appropriate for such a team. But sometimes unfortunate things happen. We should also remind ourselves, that, right now, we live in unprecedented times. Not everybody may be coping well with the societal changes that virtually all countries have undergone in recent months. The Road to Rio still lays ahead, with most of the qualification process for the 2020 Major still on the horizon. There’s plenty of time for these teams to get back on their feet and start catching up.
What Happens Next?
Well, some teams will have to do a bit of clean-up. Especially for mousesports, this has not been a successful run. The likes of fnatic, Evil Geniuses, Team Liquid and Natus Vincere have a lot of analysis to do, too. But it also stands to question how relevant these results really are. Obviously they count towards the ESL One: Rio Major 2020 qualification, but are they really a good indicator for these teams’ states?
We argue that that’s not really the case. Online play is messy. Coaches can talk mid-round and analyse all gameplay on-the-go. The performance of the players is heavily impacted by the quality of their internet connection. Even s1mple on adderall wouldn’t be able to frag with 300ms of ping!
To see what these results really mean, we will need to return to offline play. While the really big stadium events are likely off the table until September, October, or even 2021, there’s still the possibility of studio events. There, the players will be able to compete in an offline environment with maximum safety.
As it currently stands, there are a few teams with legitimate chances of making the Major, based off of their performance at Road to Rio. There are lots of online events coming up in the near future. DreamHack Spring, BLAST Spring and BLAST Showdown will all provide more than enough opportunities for these teams to prove themselves again. As for the CSGO Major circuit points, two more online tournaments will decide who gets into event.
Will the losers from Road to Rio make a comeback there?