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Stories to Watch at the IEM Rio Major Champions Stage

Zakaria Almughrabi

The IEM Rio Major is down to its last stage. Twenty-four teams arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil two weeks ago, and now only eight remain. The Challengers and Legends Stages provided many a twist, leading to a final bracket that almost no one saw coming. So, which team has what it takes to claim the biggest prize in CS:GO?

IEM Rio Cloud9

Image Copyright ESL | Adela Sznajder

All Teams in the IEM Rio Major Playoffs

Cloud9 FURIA Esports Heroic Outsiders
Fnatic Team Spirit Natus Vincere MOUZ

CIS Represent

The region with the most teams in the IEM Rio Major playoffs is the CIS. That’s not a huge surprise, considering that if you disregard FaZe Clan’s accomplishments, the CIS has won 12 of the 16 S-Tier events since the end of 2020. And seeing as how FaZe went 0-3 in the Legends Stage, signs are pointing towards another CIS Major victory.

Leading the charge is actually not Natus Vincere, but Cloud9. The former Gambit Esports squad very nearly dropped out of the IEM Rio Major in the Challengers Stage. They lost their first two best-of-ones in overtime to Fnatic and Grayhound Gaming before sweeping three best-of-threes in a row. Cloud9 even looked shaky in the decider game against GamerLegion, heavily tempering fan expectations going into top sixteen.

As it turned out, that was just a warm-up. Cloud9 flew through to the playoffs with BO1 wins over both previous Major champions, FaZe and NAVI. They then cleaned up Heroic, a 3-1 team, without any problems. This first seed finish is fantastic for Cloud9, as they’ve bought themselves a very easy route to the finals on paper. Cloud9 could be bringing home a second Major title to the organization, albeit with a very different team this time.

Not to be disregarded are the other three CIS representatives: NAVI, Team Spirit, and Outsiders. While NAVI and Spirit snuck through with 3-2 records, Outsiders had a very respectable run with wins against NiP, Spirit, and MOUZ. Their only loss came to Heroic in BO1’s, showing that Outsiders mean business.

And of course, NAVI and Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev have been there before. It wouldn’t be unexpected for them to turn on the burners and make a run to finals, even from a very hard side of the bracket.


Brazil Makes it Through

The first CS:GO Major in Brazil kicked off on a somber tone. Two of the three all-Brazilian teams were eliminated on day two of the event with 0-3 records, 00 Nation and Imperial Esports. A day later, the only other team with a Brazilian player, 9z Team, was eliminated. All of the sudden, the weight of an entire nation weighed on the shoulders of FURIA.

However, that weight was propped up by the support of the entire nation as well. FURIA’s entire run through Rio has been played with a cacophony of cheers as background music. They quickly recovered after a round one loss to BIG before finishing 3-1 in the Challengers Stage. That momentum didn’t stop either.

Now in the Legends Stage, FURIA crushed ENCE in round one, edged out Team Spirit in round two, then wiped the floor with BIG in the revenge qualification match for a 3-0 finish. It’s a shame in a way. Because FURIA earned a playoffs berth in just two days, the venues were missing a little something in the last two.

Usually, getting a top two seed going into the Major playoffs is a pretty good spot to be at. Unfortunately for FURIA, the rest of the seeding was not in their favor. They’ll have to face off against NAVI in round one. If they survive that, either Spirit or Heroic await. None of these matches are unwinnable of course, FURIA has been playing too well for that to be the case. However, they’ll need to bring their best to the table consistently to go all the way.

European Underdogs Find Form

Of the three European teams that qualified for the IEM Rio Major Champions Stage, two of them started out as measly Challengers Stage teams. With the likes of FaZe, Vitality, NiP, and ENCE falling short, many of Europe’s top contenders will not be showing their faces in the playoffs. Instead, we have the fresh-faced MOUZ and Fnatic rosters to look forward to seeing compete.


We’ve discussed MOUZ a number of times leading up to this point, but that’s because their story is fairly unique in esports. This is a team that consists of four pieces that were playing with the MOUZ NXT academy team just last year. At the start of 2022, Ádám “torzsi” Torzsás and coach Dennis “sycrone” Nielsen were brought up to bolster a failing MOUZ roster.

MOUZ tried a couple options to fill in their last remaining roster spot, including bringing Nathan “NBK-“ Schmitt out of retirement (read: VALORANT). Eventually, they decided to promote Jon “JDC” de Castro from MOUZ NXT. With this roster, MOUZ achieved their greatest performance in over a year: a playoff appearance at IEM Cologne. After that, they finished their roster replacement project by bringing up Dorian “xertioN” Berman.

Everything was all set for MOUZ’s Major run. After flying through the Challengers Stage 3-0, they just snuck past ENCE in round five of the Legends Stage to advance to playoffs as the eight seed. It will be hard for MOUZ to go all the way, as Cloud9 stands in their way. That said, 3-2 teams have beaten 3-0 teams at Majors in the past. Regardless of the outcome, this has been a phenomenal period of growth for this roster. They have a bright future ahead of them.


Fnatic, on the other hand, is a story of sudden explosive improvement. The legendary CS:GO organization has had a failing roster for years on end. During the summer player break, they decided that it was time to blow it up. Fnatic brought in Nico “nicodoz” Tamjidi and Fredrik “roeJ” Jørgensen from Copenhagen Flames. Their last acquisition was an unexpected one in 26-year-old Dion “FASHR” Derksen, previously of ECSTATIC. If you’ve never heard either of those names before, you wouldn’t be alone.

Despite this being a ragtag roster of players that are aging, inconsistent at the highest level, or both, it would seem that Fnatic found the perfect mix. With less than three full months of practice together, they qualified for the Major, got through the Challengers Stage, then qualified for playoffs. Now, Fnatic is back on the biggest stage in CS:GO for the first time since January 2018.

It’s unclear exactly how good this Fnatic team can be. They just got together after all. So far, we’ve seen them best powerful opponents like Cloud9, NiP, and ENCE in BO1’s. Their sweep over BIG looked good, but we’ve yet to see Fnatic against a true title contender in BO3’s. Outsiders will be their first opponents at the IEM Rio Major Champions Stage. This will be the first test for Fnatic to prove that this is more than just a honeymoon phase.

The IEM Rio Major Champions Stage begins on November 10th at 12pm ET / 9am PT. The initial matchups are:

Fnatic vs Outsiders

Cloud9 vs MOUZ

Heroic vs Team Spirit

Natus Vincere vs FURIA Esports