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Stories to Watch at the IEM Winter Playoffs

Zakaria Almughrabi

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s IEM Winter event is nearing its conclusion. Only six of the 16 teams in attendance remain. With only five games left to be played, each team will be giving their all for a chance at the $100,000 and 1000 ESL Pro Tour points first place prize. Many strong teams are still left in the running, as well as a wildcard.

IEM WInter Playoffs

G2 Esports have set themselves up for success at IEM Winter despite some unforeseen changes. (Image Credit ESL)

GODSENT’s First Big Showing

The new Brazilian roster of GODSENT is the biggest surprise at IEM Winter. This roster had their first big international appearance at the PGL Stockholm Major in late October. While they did get last place, the team showed that they had some potential moving forward.

That potential was on full display as GODSENT beat Heroic in round one 16-13. They then took down BIG with two convincing 16-12 map wins to secure a playoff berth. Although they couldn’t best for a semifinal bye, GODSENT still have a chance to go even further in the event.

Vitality’s Last Hurrah

Team Vitality is currently the second-highest rated CS:GO team in the world. Even so, there are rumors circulating that they will be putting together a super team with half of the current Astralis roster during the offseason. These could be the last matches we see of the all-French Vitality lineup. They will have the rest of IEM Winter and the BLAST Global Final together at minimum.

Despite Vitality being such a strong team, they’ve been going through a huge trophy drought for the past year. Their last piece of hardware came at BLAST Fall in December of 2020. It would likely mean a lot for this team to finally earn a championship title after spending the back half of the year rebounding from their slow start.

Unexpected Substitutes for G2

G2 Esports are one of two teams who earned a ticket straight to the semifinals with an undefeated group stage run. Not only did they have wins against very strong competition in Team Liquid and Vitality, but they also did it with two new different pieces in their roster.

Last month, G2 parted ways with their long-time coach Damien “maLeK” Marcel. They have an interim coach currently acting for the team. Additionally, G2 are down their in-game leader. Nemanja “nexa” Isakovic could not attend IEM Winter due to visa issues. Standing in for him is their former AWPer Kenny “kennyS” Schrub. While kennyS isn’t unfamiliar with G2, the team has changed a lot since the last time he played in March of this year. To see G2 performing this well under these circumstances is impressive, to say the least.

CIS Friendly Fire

Only two teams from the CIS region are in attendance here at IEM Winter. Gambit Esports and were seeded right next to each other in the Group B bracket. Their first meeting ended in a very close 2-0 victory for VP (19-15, 16-14). Gambit had to fight tooth and nail through the lower bracket, very nearly losing to FaZe Clan and Fnatic in two maps before winning in overtime and taking it to a third.

Meanwhile, VP had smooth sailing in the upper bracket finals against GODSENT. Their fifth consecutive map win booked them a spot in the semifinals. With a top four finish guaranteed VP are no doubt eyeing their first S-tier tournament win since January at cs_summit 7. However, they’ll need to get past the winner of Gambit versus Vitality for a chance at the trophy. Gambit could still get the last laugh over their regional rivals.

The IEM Winter Playoffs begin on December 5 at 9:00 AM CST. The quarterfinals matchups are:

GODSENT vs Ninjas in Pyjamas

Team Vitality vs Gambit Esports