IEM Katowice preview: The underdogs

On the tenth anniversary of this historic event, HLTV brings you the first of three previews of IEM Katowice.

IEM Katowice is now upon us, the first major LAN event of 2022, and teams from around the world have gathered in Poland for the first true litmus test of the year, mere months ahead of the upcoming PGL Antwerp Major.

Not only is Katowice an important milestone for this calendar year, the event also celebrates its ten year anniversary with the 2022 edition, having become a central pillar of the Counter-Strike calendar.

IEM Katowice celebrates its tenth anniversary this year

With that being said, it's time for HLTV to look forward to the tournament and bring you a series of previews cataloguing the teams in attendance and giving the all-important context and storylines that a viewer needs to enjoy an event of this magnitude the right way.

Our previews will be split into three articles, the first two tackling eight of the play-in teams each, and the final one previewing the teams directly invited to the main event.

First up we have the underdogs, the bottom eight ranked teams featuring in the play-in, a double elimination bracket that serves as a chance for lesser ranked teams to duke it out with some of the world's best for a spot in the main event. Without further ado, read on for a preview of eight of the teams that will be seeking Katowice qualification through the play-in tournament.

Fire in the belly, or dying embers?

Copenhagen Flames were one of the breakout teams of 2021, busting into the consciousness of tier-one fans in spectacular fashion with a strong showing at IEM Fall to qualify for the Major, before going on to perform even better at the PGL Major Stockholm itself. This stellar run of form saw them crack a top ten ranking, peaking at #9, and caused major organisations like Complexity to sniff around the squad.

Since the Major, things haven't gone quite so well for the Danes. They ended last year with wildly inconsistent form, winning Malta Vibes Knockout Series 4 but struggling aside from this, losing to teams like GamerLegion, TTC and BLUEJAYS in disappointing finishes in ESEA Premier and two Funspark ULTI events.

The team has also started poorly in 2022, amidst the falling through of the potential Complexity deal, with their series record currently standing at 3-4 having suffered losses at the hands of teams like Akimbo and forZe.

You would be forgiven for wondering if motivation has been an issue, that the team may be struggling to bring the same level to tier-two online events that they did to IEM Fall and the Major, and the collapse of the Complexity move may also be playing on the minds of the players. Either way, Flames need to start performing if they are to hang on to their spot in the top 20, and a return to the LAN environment may be the perfect remedy.

Flames have struggled for form since the Major

The seedlings have some growing to do

Sprout were experiencing steady growth throughout 2021, rising from #67 to #20 by the end of the year, only to have their lineup fall apart in the offseason; Kamil "⁠KEi⁠" Pietkun decided to return to the Polish scene, whilst star rifler Josef "⁠faveN⁠" Baumann was picked up by BIG.

The off-season rebuild saw young talents come into the roster, in the form of Luxembourgian talent Max "⁠Marix⁠" Kugener who had built a solid resume with German squad CCO, and Victor "⁠Staehr⁠" Staehr previously of OPAA; the latter joined his ex-IGL from OPAA Danny "⁠BERRY⁠" Krüger, who had transitioned to a coaching role with Sprout in November of last year.

The international roster has had a solid start to 2022, picking up some solid wins over teams like 1WIN and Dignitas, with the newcomers performing well, but losses to teams like K23, Eternal Fire and BLINK suggest they still have some work to do if they want to crack tier-one.

This play-in provides an important opportunity for such a young squad, but it probably comes a tad too early in their development to expect too much from them, despite their current #20 ranking. Expect them to be competitive but fall short of making the main event.

New blood, new heights?

ENCE experienced a similar trajectory to Copenhagen Flames in 2021, except they started their rise a little bit earlier with a playoff run at ESL Pro League S14. The team seemed to grow in confidence with this showing, and by the time IEM Fall came around they really hit their stride, securing a shock second place finish at this event. They carried this form into the PGL Stockholm Major Challengers Stage, securing themselves a spot in the main event in convincing fashion.

After the Major ENCE's year ended with a whimper, as they performed poorly at both DreamHack Open November and IEM Winter, failing to make the playoffs of either event. The culmination of a busy second half of the year saw them settle at #15 in the world rankings, having peaked as high as #7 in November.

2022 has seen ENCE bring in Pavle "⁠Maden⁠" Bošković for Joonas "⁠doto⁠" Forss, adding another aggressive rifler to the already confrontational system that they bring to the table. Should the Montenegrin be able to recapture the best form of his GODSENT and FunPlus Phoenix days, ENCE will be a very dangerous prospect coming into this year.

Seeing as the Katowice play-in will be the squad's debut with Maden it is tough to predict exactly how they will do, but at the very least they should be seriously contending for a spot in the main event.

2021 was a breakout year for Snappi and co.

Can the Spaniards tame their wild form?

Movistar Riders came together six months ago, after the previous roster featuring Owen "⁠smooya⁠" Butterfield broke apart, and they almost immediately made an impact on the international stage; they went on a strong run at IEM Fall to finish fifth and qualify for the Major, where they narrowly missed out on making the Legends Stage.

They ended last year hovering around the top-20 and achieving inconsistent results, underwhelming finishes at V4 Future Sports Festival balanced out by performances such as their successful ESL Conference campaign. They also affirmed their status as the strongest team in the Iberian scene during this time by winning ESL Masters Spain over SAW.

2022 began in disappointing fashion for Riders as they failed to make the playoffs of the recent ESL Challenger event, falling to underdogs 9z, who are currently sat at #46 in the world. They will be hoping to bounce back here in Katowice and find a consistency that has evaded them since their breakout performance at IEM Fall, or questions might set in about whether or not the roster has hit its ceiling.

Pride of Poland on the rise?

Wisla Krakow were a solid but entirely unspectacular tier-two team in 2021, generally dominating the Polish scene but struggling to make impressions amongst stronger fields in international events. This led to changes being made over the off-season, with Kamil "⁠Sobol⁠" Sobolewski and Michał "⁠snatchie⁠" Rudzki coming into the lineup.

The changes seem to have kicked Wisla on to the next level as 2022 has brought with it a marked improvement in results, with the team already matching their previous peak world ranking off the back of an impressive showing at Pinnacle Winter Series 1; they placed top-four at this event, beating MOUZ NXT and most impressively FURIA along the way.

Read more
SZPERO: "We want to be a Polish team that will finally compete against the best"

This play-in comes at a perfect time for the Poles, as they are in a good run of form and have the chance to test the ceiling of their new roster. They will be an unknown quantity for many of the tier-one opposition in attendance and this fact will work to their advantage. Whilst facing NIP is a tough ask in their opening game, even if the Swedes are fielding a stand-in, do not be surprised if Wisla make a good go of qualifying for the main event.

snatchie has been spectacular since joining Wisla

Stand-in? Pressure off

2021 was awful for MOUZ, bar the miraculous Flashpoint 3 win mid-way through the year. The lineup struggled to mesh, with Christopher "⁠dexter⁠" Nong and Frederik "⁠acoR⁠" Gyldstrand performing particularly poorly on an individual level, and they bombed out early at most of the events they attended.

Unsurprisingly this meant they could not hold on to their prize asset in the off-season, and Robin "⁠ropz⁠" Kool made his way over to FaZe. The German organisation sought to rebuild, also ditching acoR, and brought in French legend Nathan "⁠NBK-⁠" Schmitt and highly touted academy AWPer Ádám "⁠torzsi⁠" Torzsás. The lineup certainly seems to have taken a hit in terms of firepower, and a lot of pressure will be placed on the young trio of torzsi, David "⁠frozen⁠" Čerňanský and Aurimas "⁠Bymas⁠" Pipiras to get the heavy lifting done.

Despite losing one of the best players in the world, there is still a realm of possibility in which this version of MOUZ can outperform last year's roster, even if that is setting the bar fairly low. The balance of roles seems good on paper, and if NBK- can provide some of the leadership that was lacking in 2021, there is no reason to think that frozen and torzsi can't provide the fragging needed.

Unfortunately for the international squad they will be attending Katowice without their full lineup, with academy player Jon "⁠JDC⁠" de Castro replacing the COVID-hit Bymas. A tough first round matchup against GODSENT would have been a stern test even with the full roster, and as such the expectations will be somewhat pared back; it would at least be good to see torzsi and frozen hit the ground running in the fragging department. If they do, then maybe this team can challenge for a main event spot.

Can the Brazilians build on BLAST promise?

The current iteration of MIBR came together late last year after the previous roster failed to qualify for the PGL Stockholm Major, with Raphael "⁠exit⁠" Lacerda and Marcelo "⁠chelo⁠" Cespedes remaining to team up with the core of the Bravos roster in the form of Jhonatan "⁠JOTA⁠" Willian, Matheus "⁠Tuurtle⁠" Anhaia and Adriano "⁠WOOD7⁠" Cerato.

The team started things off brightly by winning ESEA Advanced and placing second at the CBCS Finals 2021, solidifying their status as one of the best teams in South America, and most recently attended the BLAST Spring Groups, where they took a shock map win against Natus Vincere and beat Complexity 2-0; this was done with a stand-in, Breno "⁠brnz4n⁠" Poletto of MIBR Academy, who actually was their best performing player at the event.

There were flashes of promise shown at BLAST by this MIBR roster, but it is not yet clear if they will be good enough to compete at a tier-one level. The Katowice play-in will be an excellent chance to continue answering that question, although much like with Sprout, this may be a touch too early in the roster's life for the team to be competing at their peak. Expect MIBR to fall short, even if they are facing a struggling Astralis in their first round match.

The MIBR squad showed flashes of brilliance during BLAST

Time to do more than just dominate the region

Renegades have spent the past couple of years utterly dominating the Oceanic region without ever making a dent at any international competition. The best they have managed was a couple of map wins at the PGL Major Stockholm Challengers Stage, and their most recent endeavour was an 0-2 exit at the ESL Pro League Conference at the end of 2021.

They haven't played an official since that Conference failure, but there has been a significant change in the team as Liam "⁠malta⁠" Schembri, a member of the team for two years, has left the squad and been replaced by Jay "⁠Liazz⁠" Tregillgas; the ex-EXTREMUM player brings some vital tier-one experience to the team.

Despite bringing in someone with a decent amount of experience in the form of Liazz, it is hard to envision a world in which Renegades have done enough to address their shortcomings, especially without any officials to really test their mettle. They will be a long shot to make the main event, especially considering they reside in what is probably the toughest bracket.

France Nathan 'NBK-' Schmitt
Nathan 'NBK-' Schmitt
Age:
28
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.02
Maps played:
2025
KPR:
0.69
DPR:
0.67
Montenegro Pavle 'Maden' Bošković
Pavle 'Maden' Bošković
Age:
23
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.04
Maps played:
575
KPR:
0.74
DPR:
0.71
United Kingdom Owen 'smooya' Butterfield
Owen 'smooya' Butterfield
Age:
22
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.18
Maps played:
787
KPR:
0.78
DPR:
0.62
Luxembourg Max 'Marix' Kugener
Max 'Marix' Kugener
Age:
18
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.05
Maps played:
61
KPR:
0.73
DPR:
0.71
Brazil Raphael 'exit' Lacerda
Raphael 'exit' Lacerda
Age:
25
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.08
Maps played:
631
KPR:
0.72
DPR:
0.62
Hungary Ádám 'torzsi' Torzsás
Ádám 'torzsi' Torzsás
Age:
20
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.17
Maps played:
380
KPR:
0.79
DPR:
0.63
Australia Christopher 'dexter' Nong
Christopher 'dexter' Nong
Age:
27
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.10
Maps played:
908
KPR:
0.75
DPR:
0.66
Estonia Robin 'ropz' Kool
Robin 'ropz' Kool
Age:
22
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.12
Maps played:
1048
KPR:
0.74
DPR:
0.62
Brazil Adriano 'WOOD7' Cerato
Adriano 'WOOD7' Cerato
Age:
27
Team:
Rating 1.0:
0.99
Maps played:
474
KPR:
0.66
DPR:
0.64
Brazil Matheus 'Tuurtle' Anhaia
Matheus 'Tuurtle' Anhaia
Age:
23
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.02
Maps played:
642
KPR:
0.70
DPR:
0.68
Poland Kamil 'Sobol' Sobolewski
Kamil 'Sobol' Sobolewski
Age:
24
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.06
Maps played:
712
KPR:
0.72
DPR:
0.66
Brazil Jhonatan 'JOTA' Willian
Jhonatan 'JOTA' Willian
Age:
24
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.07
Maps played:
322
KPR:
0.72
DPR:
0.64
Brazil Marcelo 'chelo' Cespedes
Marcelo 'chelo' Cespedes
Age:
24
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.06
Maps played:
810
KPR:
0.71
DPR:
0.66
Lithuania Aurimas 'Bymas' Pipiras
Aurimas 'Bymas' Pipiras
Age:
18
Team:
Rating 1.0:
0.96
Maps played:
300
KPR:
0.63
DPR:
0.63
Denmark Victor 'Staehr' Staehr
Victor 'Staehr' Staehr
Age:
17
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.02
Maps played:
129
KPR:
0.69
DPR:
0.67
Germany Jon 'JDC' de Castro
Jon 'JDC' de Castro
Age:
22
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.03
Maps played:
421
KPR:
0.70
DPR:
0.67
Germany Josef 'faveN' Baumann
Josef 'faveN' Baumann
Age:
22
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.09
Maps played:
1282
KPR:
0.74
DPR:
0.65
Denmark Frederik 'acoR' Gyldstrand
Frederik 'acoR' Gyldstrand
Age:
25
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.06
Maps played:
1057
KPR:
0.70
DPR:
0.63
Finland Joonas 'doto' Forss
Joonas 'doto' Forss
Age:
26
Team:
No team
Rating 1.0:
0.98
Maps played:
648
KPR:
0.67
DPR:
0.68
Australia Jay 'Liazz' Tregillgas
Jay 'Liazz' Tregillgas
Age:
24
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.07
Maps played:
933
KPR:
0.70
DPR:
0.62
Australia Liam 'malta' Schembri
Liam 'malta' Schembri
Age:
26
Team:
No team
Rating 1.0:
1.04
Maps played:
943
KPR:
0.69
DPR:
0.64
Poland Kamil 'KEi' Pietkun
Kamil 'KEi' Pietkun
Age:
21
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.05
Maps played:
629
KPR:
0.74
DPR:
0.70
Poland Michał 'snatchie' Rudzki
Michał 'snatchie' Rudzki
Age:
24
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.06
Maps played:
1485
KPR:
0.72
DPR:
0.66
Slovakia David 'frozen' Čerňanský
David 'frozen' Čerňanský
Age:
19
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.13
Maps played:
1120
KPR:
0.76
DPR:
0.65
Brazil Breno 'brnz4n' Poletto
Breno 'brnz4n' Poletto
Age:
18
Team:
Rating 1.0:
0.95
Maps played:
37
KPR:
0.67
DPR:
0.73
Vitality for the win!
2022-02-13 23:19
10 replies
#13
Emy | 
England Triturn
The fact that this article has been written clearly means an underdog wins in the script
2022-02-13 23:40
7 replies
#14
 | 
Ukraine Slavv_Boss
Faze win confirmed?
2022-02-13 23:43
4 replies
if ropz coming
2022-02-14 01:08
2 replies
Where is G2 ?
2022-02-14 05:40
1 reply
CPH, MIBR, Sprout omegalul
2022-02-14 07:15
Underrated commment hahahaha
2022-02-14 13:03
+1 valve scripts always have those crazy twists.. like zeus winning a fucking major or ence getting into a major final.. like it's a soap opera where entertainment is more important than credibility
2022-02-13 23:53
1 reply
#70
 | 
Europe trash_star
"panem et circenses"
2022-02-14 18:12
#28
 | 
Brazil Vicmar
EZ4RNG
2022-02-14 00:54
hope so but I think we can go to the final but it depends actually who will we face against in the finals path, we have a great squad but other teams like Navi, G2 , tbh I'm scared of these two cause i think we can beat other ones but let's see I just went to play in finals in every tournament witch is hard let's be fair
2022-02-14 10:20
no
2022-02-13 23:18
1 reply
#37
 | 
Finland Kashmiir
Liquid champions and not mentioned? Based
2022-02-14 01:14
nice
2022-02-13 23:18
#4
 | 
United Kingdom Tseden
ok
2022-02-13 23:19
RIP CoL :((
2022-02-13 23:19
1 reply
Dude it's such a sad, massive RIP
2022-02-14 09:25
Cphf sadly done
2022-02-13 23:21
ENCE winning it all
2022-02-13 23:22
#8
 | 
Ukraine SwissRolls
cant wait for iem kato !!
2022-02-13 23:23
1 reply
#10
 | 
Poland Roxin
Same!
2022-02-13 23:32
#9
 | 
Estonia xGang
entropiq are underdogs
2022-02-13 23:26
1 reply
Don't say. At the Major, they lacked a bit, they were blown away after 2-0, finishing 2-3. And so the Czech organization shows stable results, mainly in the tier 2 scene, being in the top 10. Another important fact is that the Russian team does not have direct invites, they earn them. Then let's put fnatic, Astralis, NIP, Furia, Liquid... on the outsiders - these teams don't show good results in the new roster.
2022-02-14 11:36
wrong tuurtle (MIBR) in preview :D
2022-02-13 23:36
#12
 | 
Poland Natalija
hope for a good event, sadly no device:(
2022-02-13 23:37
no dev1ce no fun :(
2022-02-13 23:44
didnt read; all listed teams out day1
2022-02-13 23:47
1 reply
#19
 | 
Poland Berbe123
No, because half of the lower bracket matches are being played on day 2
2022-02-14 00:00
liquid will destroy every team at katowice oSee supremacy
2022-02-13 23:58
5 replies
#20
 | 
Albania aplasa
no
2022-02-14 00:03
3 replies
stay mad hater liquid wins katowice
2022-02-14 02:51
2 replies
#42
 | 
Albania aplasa
hater what wtf name checkout
2022-02-14 05:14
such a troll.....
2022-02-14 07:07
noSee
2022-02-14 12:57
Wisla Polish pride
2022-02-14 00:04
#22
 | 
Brazil Ja1fps
brnz4n the goat
2022-02-14 00:10
Movistar era will begin here
2022-02-14 00:20
1 reply
Sunpayus GOAT
2022-02-14 01:01
#24
 | 
France r0ckT
never seen more click bait out of facebook
2022-02-14 00:32
VAMOS RIDERS
2022-02-14 00:38
#26
 | 
Sweden XenoRex
nothing about fnatic :(
2022-02-14 00:46
I really want Ence to do well, same about CphF. and Im really intrested about fnatic, wisla and movistar riders.
2022-02-14 00:47
1 reply
Same bro + faze and new mouz
2022-02-14 01:02
Polish pride probably out after 2 matches Sadge
2022-02-14 01:00
2 replies
#40
 | 
United States cybonics
nah, you guys got this
2022-02-14 04:00
Polish mYm team was the best CS team ever, you got that pride still
2022-02-14 10:56
#32
 | 
United States Teztyment
Lets go BIG
2022-02-14 01:07
#33
 | 
United States Shmikeb0b
MOUZ go out first (not 1st, out first)
2022-02-14 01:08
1 reply
#35
 | 
United States Shmikeb0b
Come to think of it how are MOUZ at a tier 1 event
2022-02-14 01:09
ez nip
2022-02-14 01:11
so godsent is not an underdog?
2022-02-14 02:39
2 replies
guess so bro
2022-02-14 08:48
#65
 | 
Belgium Soldierce
probably since they count mouz as an underdog and godsent plays against mouz in first round
2022-02-14 15:19
Uh,gl underdogs<3
2022-02-14 04:17
#46
 | 
Hungary szia
everyone knows who theyre talking about, but they didnt even mention the name movistar riders in the "Can the Spaniards tame their wild form?" section lol. might wanna do that
2022-02-14 08:17
#48
 | 
Brunei route322
I belive in Wisla
2022-02-14 08:52
#49
 | 
Reunion fthata
777
2022-02-14 09:13
Vamos Riders. Put that spot CoL gave you to use.
2022-02-14 09:30
#52
 | 
Poland DzikiMiki
let's go Vistula polish pride
2022-02-14 09:30
Made in bathroom peepoHappy
2022-02-14 10:06
why some teams didnt even play last month like Ences last game was early December...
2022-02-14 10:43
#57
NEO | 
Poland sedi
snatchie mvp
2022-02-14 11:01
#YTB #RNGFAM
2022-02-14 12:10
I just don't get it.. why no mouz kjaerbye
2022-02-14 12:50
Ence is dark horse EZ4ENCE
2022-02-14 14:33
2 replies
+1 to this. ENCE has all the necessary firepower needed, but still their first event. So if they start their run in the play-in with a bang by winning Entropiq and OG, everything is possible.
2022-02-14 16:41
1 reply
true
2022-02-14 17:08
#64
 | 
Saint Lucia Al4n
where is stickers ?????
2022-02-14 15:13
#68
 | 
France r0ckT
not talking about fnatic?
2022-02-14 17:18
3 replies
Maybe they are one of the favorites to win Katowice???
2022-02-14 17:34
1 reply
#72
 | 
France r0ckT
Nice joke !
2022-02-14 20:13
#71
 | 
Greece RedWinter
this is about the 8 lowest seeds in the play-ins
2022-02-14 19:59
Wisla Krakow sponsored by Chernobyl
2022-02-14 20:44
Wisła - the unexpected advance to the main event. I promise
2022-02-15 03:40
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