“To be a legend, you have to win an IEM Katowice” – IEM Katowice is one of the most important and prestigious tournaments in the entire Esports calendar, with dynasties and legacies in the world of CS:GO being built off of a strong showing in the Polish city. However, whilst it has certainly seen the crowning of so many icons over the years, IEM Katowice has also produced some of the most memorable shocks and upsets too.
So, with the tournament kicking into another gear as the main stage gets underway, Gamelevate takes you through some of the best darkhorses to root for at IEM Katowice 2022.
This time last year, Fnatic were being knocked out of the play-in stage of IEM Katowice with consecutive defeats to OG and MiBR, in what was undoubtedly one of the lowest points in a year-long fall from grace.
The team’s exit before the main stage of the tournament was one of the deciding factors behind the biggest reshuffle in the org’s history, with a British core led by Alexander “ALEX” McMeekin being drafted in. And whilst results have been generally pretty good so far with a strong showing at ESL Pro League Season 14, a return to the top 20 in the world rankings, and a first tournament win since October 2019 at DreamHack Open November, the team were still pretty heavy underdogs heading into the IEM Katowice 2022 Play-In.
An opening-round loss to Copenhagen Flames definitely had some potential underneath the surface, and Fnatic’s do-or-die 2-0 of Wisla Krakow was as convincing a display as we’ve seen so far. Once again underdogs against BIG, Fnatic produced one of the matches of the tournament so far with a stunning comeback from 12-3 at the half to close out Ancient during overtime.
ALEX and co. produced one of the shocks of the season so far during their opening match against a heavily-fancied G2 side, recovering from a 16-2 loss on their own pick of Nuke to reverse sweep the series on Mirage and Inferno.
It’s been a while since ENCE were catapulted to the limelight at the 2019 IEM Katowice Major, but the org have quietly been building themselves as one of the best international lineups over the past year or so.
Doing away with the all-Finnish lineups of the past, ENCE have pulled together, the org have cultivated some of the best players on the outskirts of top-tier CS led by the experienced Marco “Snappi” Pfeiffer. Pavle “maden” Bošković is the latest addition having joined in January from FunPlus Phoenix, however, it has been the emergence of AWPing sensation Olek “hades” Miskiewicz that has really elevated ENCE’s standing as one of the ‘best of the rest’ outside the top ten.
ENCE’s IEM Katowice has been mightily impressive, overcoming a difficult Play-In run against Entropiq and GODSENT to book a daunting fixture against NAVI, the best CS:GO team in the world. Whilst the Finnish org did eventually succumb to an unlucky 2-1 loss, ENCE were by far the better team for long stretches (demolishing NAVI 16-4 on Nuke), and will still fancy their chances against Astralis as they fight for survival.
The best team in Brazil and arguably the best hope for fans outside of Europe, FURIA have long been considered an extremely talented side, albeit one with a few glaring errors that have consistently held them back over the years.
Led by one of the most distinctive and aggressive AWPers ever in Andrei “arT” Piovezan, FURIA have entered 2022 with a brand-new lineup following a stop-start 2021. Rafael “saffee” Costa has been brought in from paiN Gaming, and André “drop” Abreu has become the latest FURIA youth graduate to break into the main roster, and both have enjoyed strong starts with Brazil’s only representatives at IEM Katowice.
The team’s 2-0 over an admittedly struggling Astralis was a thrilling spectacle to watch, and it could be that the LAN environment at Katowice and excitement of a returning Spodek crowd could be the missing piece FURIA have been looking for.