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The Biggest Surprises of the PGL Copenhagen Major Opening Stage

Zakaria Almughrabi

The Opening Stage of the PGL Copenhagen Major has concluded. The sixteen hopefuls have been cut down to eight and will join the eight top seeds in the Elimination Stage starting on March 21 at 8:00 AM ET / 5:00 AM PT. It was truly a roller coaster of emotions for the teams and viewers alike as predictions were thrown out of the window early on. Many are already lamenting the loss of their Diamond Coin. Let’s look at some of the unexpected happenings of the PGL Copenhagen Major Opening Stage.

PGL Copenhagen Major Opening Stage

Image Credit PGL

Dia de FURIA

Before the PGL Copenhagen Major began, there was controversy over the recipient of the only Elimination Stage invite from the Americas. Despite finishing with a loss to FURIA in the event, Complexity Gaming was awarded the free pass to the top 16 based on Valve’s internal rankings. This notably upset fans of the 3-0 teams, the Brazilian Imperial Esports and FURIA Esports.

Most agreed that FURIA deserved the spot. Now, they had to start in the Opening Stage and play extra games just to get to where Complexity began. Still, there was faith in FURIA to blow through this weaker stage of the tournament easily. When day one of play ended however, the Counter-Strike community was in for a shock.

FURIA lost both of their best-of-ones to massively inferior teams on paper. Their opening loss to the last qualifying Americas team, Legacy, was followed by a loss to the Asia-Pacific second seed, the lowest-ranked team at the tournament. Just like that, FURIA was thrown to the wolves, needing to win three best-of-threes in a row to qualify.

On day two, they got to work. FURIA quickly eliminated KOI without giving up double-digit rounds to stay alive. Next up was ENCE. The fan-favorite Polish squad had high expectations following their breakout at IEM Katowice. When FURIA swept them 13-9 and 13-8, the Brazilian giants had finally woken up.

The final match of the Opening Stage pitted FURIA against SAW. The Portuguese squad had opened the PGL Copenhagen Major in the opposite manner as FURIA, winning both of their BO1’s then losing every BO3. In the end, the momentum was too much to overcome for SAW. FURIA swept them with back-to-back 13-7’s to claim the final spot at the Elimination Stage.

Victory for Brazil

FURIA’s massive comeback from 0-2 isn’t the only success story for Counter-Strike’s most passionate region. Three other Brazilian teams also earned a place at the PGL Major Copenhagen Opening Stage.

Stock on them was low initially, with many predicting only one or even zero escaping to the next stage. We just hadn’t seen many of these teams since CS2 began. European tier two teams had the spotlight; teams like ENCE, Apeks, and GamerLegion were rated above the BR squads.

When the tournament began, the Brazilians were punching way above their perceived weight. Imperial, paiN, and Legacy all ended day one with 1-1 records. After day two, Imperial and paiN were in the advancement range at 2-1. European teams fell to the might of Brazil one after the other. Apeks and ENCE both racked up three losses against BR squads. GamerLegion failed to surpass Imperial on the final day and was tossed from the tournament.

Three of the four Brazilian teams at the PGL Copenhagen Major made it to the top 16 teams in the world, with the fourth being only one match off qualifying. This is excellent news for America’s Counter-Strike, as this strong performance means they’ll get another team slot for the next Major.

The highest-seeded of the qualifying teams, paiN Gaming, even has a strong storyline surrounding its in-game leader. Rodrigo “biguzera” Bittencourt is currently the highest-rated player at the tournament. He’s having a truly breakout performance, which helped paiN to their strong 3-1 finish.

It’s hard to predict how well these teams will do when the competition becomes stiffer in the Elimination Stage. One thing is certain, though: they’ve already surpassed expectations; any more is a bonus.

Denmark Performs on Home Soil

With Astralis making headlines for their legendary collapse at the European RMR event, two teams were tasked with representing Denmark in the first Counter-Strike Major on Danish soil. HEROIC, the primary fall guy of the Astralis roster construction, was one of them.

HEROIC finished as the first seed overall in the Opening Stage, winning all three matches without dropping a map in their BO3. It wasn’t an easy schedule, either. They had to beat a powered-up Imperial squad in overtime on Mirage, then took down the best form of Eternal Fire we’ve seen in a while with an overtime map win. This run could not be sweeter for René “TeSeS” Madsen and Rasmus “sjuush” Beck.

The other Danish squad making a splash is ECSTATIC. This relatively unknown org rose from the ashes of the Copenhagen Flames, a team that shocked the world by making the top eight at the previous PGL Major in Antwerp two years ago. The org folded from bankruptcy last year, leaving the Danish tier-two scene wide open.

ECSTATIC took that position and ran with it. Their roster consists of bits and pieces from multiple parts of the Danish scene, wrapped together under a former Astralis coach. The result is a squad playing at a level greater than the sum of their parts. They narrowly lost to Cloud9 in their opening BO1, then won three games in a row to qualify for the next stage.

The heartbreak of Danish fans from Astralis has been quickly smoothed over by HEROIC and ECSTATIC. Denmark sent two teams, and they still have two teams. The question is if one of them can make it to the Playoffs and show up in front of the Danish crowd.