WESG World Finals: Five players to watch
With the WESG 2018 Finals about to start, we picked out five players that you should keep an eye on this week.
The 2018 WESG event will kick off this Monday with almost 30 teams split into eight groups, with the top two sides of each group progressing to the single-elimination, best-of-three bracket.
All eyes will be on MIBR, fnatic, G2 and OpTic, but there is a lot more to this tournament than just the favourites. The single-nationality rule makes for some great mix rosters and also gives talented players who are rarely in the spotlight an opportunity to shine and make a name for themselves. Here are some names that you should be watching out for as the event is about to start:
2018 LAN rating: 1.40
The 21-year-old Argentine has emerged as one of the most interesting players to follow in Latin America, becoming a centrepiece for Furious, who are eager to step out from the shadow of local rival Isurus.
Luken put on a show in the recent match between the two Argentine teams, averaging a 1.42 rating in the exciting three-map series at the ESL LA League Season 3 Finals. Isurus' superior experience proved key in the decider map's overtime, but that match proved that Argentina's giants can indeed be challenged.
That was the sort of performance that we have come to expect at regional events from Luken, who has not yet had a single below-average rating on LAN. The WESG Finals will pose a completely different challenge, with much tougher opposition, and, on top of that, Furious will be in attendance with a stand-in, Nahuel "Straka" Vazquez, who was part of the Argentina squad that reached the final at the World Championship 2016.
Furious' playbook may be a little bit rough around the edges but, following MVP PK's withdrawal, they are very much expected to be in contention for a spot in the playoffs along with FrostFire and Absolute. To Luken, being side by side with some of the best players in the world still feels very much like a dream, and he will need to shake off that feeling of awe to prove that he is the real deal.
2018 LAN rating: 1.27
poizon enjoyed a remarkable rise to prominence in 2018, in which he astonishingly did not end a single tournament, be it online or LAN, with a below-average rating, earning a spot in Windigo, Bulgaria's strongest side, and his own entry in HLTV's "One for the future" series.
Those who doubted the 20-year-old's ability were proved wrong at the start of 2019 as he put in a respectable 1.24 rating at the Europe Minor despite the fact that his team won just two out of the six maps that they played at the event, in Katowice.
The WESG Finals will be the biggest event yet for poizon, who boasts a remarkable 1.26 average rating on LAN, and an opportunity for him to confirm his credentials as one of Europe's most exciting young prospects. Blessed with a deadly AWP, the 20-year-old looks on course to become Bulgaria's next big thing, following in the footsteps of Tsvetelin "CeRq" Dimitrov, who is currently plying his trade for NRG in North America.
Having been placed in the 'Group of Death' along with fnatic and Movistar Riders, Windigo will be hoping for some inspired performances from their star player to reach the playoffs and find some much-needed stability after a troubled period in which the lineup was up for sale.
2018 LAN rating: 1.17
The 20-year-old headlines this year's Canadian WESG representative and is one of just two players who were part of the Ghost team that won the qualifier and will compete in Chongqing.
After a quiet first year with Ghost, WARDELL established himself as one of the most promising young talents in North America in 2018 with a series of impressive performances, both online and on LAN, even if, when it came to Big Events, he showed a tendency to blow hot and cold.
The Canadian AWPer had a rough first LAN event in 2019, ending the iBUYPOWER Masters with a 1.00 rating, so he will be looking forward to the WESG Finals to return to shape and get rid of the rustiness that he showed in Los Angeles ahead of Ghost's first real test of the year, the ESL Pro League Season 9 Americas.
WARDELL N Friends will need to work hard to get out of a group that includes the talented Russia mix, Imperial and Panda. Entertainment will be guaranteed in WARDELL's matches: the young Canadian tends to shine in low-pressure situations, and the team's loose playstyle should give him the freedom that he needs to showcase his talent.
2018 LAN rating: 1.30
The WESG Finals will be the second international event for floppy, who showed some promise at the ESEA MDL S29 Global Challenge as he averaged a 1.19 rating in Vireo.pro's 5th-6th place finish, acquitting himself well even against the group's tougher sides, 3DMAX and Kinguin, both of whom would go on to reach the final.
floppy joined Singularity only last month after impressing for Win Scrims Not Matches, and the early signs have been positive. He helped the team to take the top seed in the ECS Pinnacle Cup with a 1.28 rating and has averaged a 1.08 rating in ESEA MDL since replacing Gage "Infinite" Green in the line-up of the ex-Gorilla Gang squad.
With NIP out of the picture, Singularity all of a sudden find themselves within reach of a playoff spot from a group that also features a G2 side playing their last tournament with Alexandre "bodyy" Pianaro, and Revolution. The Vietnamese team are no strangers to international events, but the North Americans will still be heavily favoured for that match, which could be a confidence booster for floppy as he looks to extend his solid LAN record.
2018 LAN rating: 1.24
The 17-year-old has been putting in some solid numbers at Oceanic and Asian LAN events since 2017 and now gets another chance to shine on a global scale after cutting a frustrating figure at IEM Sydney 2018, his first Big Event, where he averaged a career-low 0.65 rating.
That was the only disappointment in what was otherwise a very good year for Texta, who guided Chiefs to victory in several domestic tournaments, most notably two ESL Championships, and to a playoff appearance at the eXTREMESLAND 2018 Asia Finals, where they were eliminated by the team's surprise package, NASR.
In Chongqing, Chiefs will not be able to field their newest recruits, New Zealander duo Chris "ofnu" Hanley and Ryan "zewsy" Palmer, but they should still be a well-oiled machine as Mohammed "MoeycQ" Tizani and Jesse "InfrequeNt" Barker had been with the team since October. Texta has not yet played on LAN this year but, if his online form is an indicator, then he is in tip-top shape and ready to power his team to top a group that looks easy on paper.
WingHei "Freeman" Cheung (ENZO): The ViCi player raised eyebrows as he helped his team to make a surprise appearance at the IEM Katowice Major and now finds himself helping a band of fellow Hongkongers to survive a group that includes 5POWER and Ukraine.
Aran "Sonic" Groesbeek (Denial): The 20-year-old was instrumental in Bravado's fairytale story and ended 2018 with a 1.19 rating, which was no small feat given the quality of opposition that they faced throughout the year. Now under Denial, he will be looking to build on the form that he showed at the recent LAN events that he attended.
Bruno "shz" Martinelli (Imperial): The former Luminosity and Immortals player has had few chances to prove his worth on LAN recently, but his 1.21 rating in 2018 shows that he cannot be taken lightly. At the recent Americas Minor, he was a nuisance to INTZ in the three-map series between the two teams.
Koji "Laz" Ushida (Absolute): The Japanese player boasts an incredible 1.23 LAN rating and has been competing at a top level in Asia since 2016. Expect him to cause Furious and FrostFire all sorts of problems in the battle for survival in Group D.