Bulletpoints: PGL Major Antwerp Contenders
We take a quick preview at the eight teams that have qualified as Contenders for the PGL Major Antwerp.
Six months since the PGL Major Stockholm, the world's best teams once again find themselves competing for one of the game's most prestigious titles: A Major championship.
The Valve-sanctioned competition will take place across a span of two weeks, which includes the Challengers, Legends and Champions stages. The first sixteen teams, who qualified as either Contenders or Challengers, will compete in the Challengers stage for a shot at moving on to the succeeding phases of the tournament.
With the Challengers stage set to kick off on Monday, let's take a look at the eight Contender teams that will take part in the preliminary matches of the Major.
- Looking to bounce back after early EPL exit and shaky RMR performance
- YEKINDAR's uncertain future could impact team morale
Outsiders come into the Major as the highest-ranked team qualified as Contenders, yet they have seen some shaky results in recent tournaments. They finished a mere 17th-20th at ESL Pro League Season 15, and qualified for the PGL Major through the Europe RMR A by the skin of their teeth, taking the eighth and final spot.
On top of that, Mareks "YEKINDAR" Gaļinskis has also stated that his future with the team is still up in the air, while a report links the Latvian with an exit from the team, so another disappointing finish at the Major may very well spell the team's final days with the current roster. Still, Outsiders are the 10th-highest-ranked team in the world for a reason, and their fortunes might just start turning around at the Major.
- North America's hope aiming to improve on last year's Major collapse
- Have steadily climbed since the beginning of the year
- Look to build on a promising EPL run
While the previous Major in Sweden was nothing to write home about, Liquid have been steadily improving with their new lineup as Nick "nitr0" Cannella and company have climbed to 13th on the world rankings since the beginning of 2022.
Even though the NA side still have to prove their worth as a serious title contender, their 5th-8th place finish and a promising victory over Heroic at ESL Pro League will surely give their fans something to hold on to. With two top 20 players of 2021 in Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski and Keith "NAF" Markovic leading the way and a third star in new AWPer Josh "oSee" Ohm, Liquid may just surpass the expectations heading into the Major.
- Good performance at the RMR and Dallas qualifiers
- An atrocious Showdown series a blip on the radar
- Grim and floppy the difference-makers
Complexity have an exciting young squad who have proven to be one of the strongest teams in North America in qualifiers for Big Events such as the PGL Major and IEM Dallas. In the build up to the Major, Johnny "JT" Theodosiou's side took convincing wins against TeamOne, 00NATION, and Sao Caetano to book their place at the tournament and went on to secure a place in Dallas after taking down another Brazilian squad in GODSENT twice.
Despite the difficult matchups at ESL Pro League, which saw them go up against Heroic, Natus Vincere, and Astralis in tightly-contested losses, Michael "Grim" Wince and Ricky "floppy" Kemery have consistently been the team's best fraggers, massively contributing to many close games against some of the world's highest-ranked teams.
Most recently, Complexity showed signs of struggle at the BLAST Premier Spring Showdown, suffering a loss at the hands of a MIBR blowout, which they'll hope to brush off as they head back over to Europe.
- Youngest Major team with success at smaller events
- Need to prove themselves against top teams
Spirit come into the Major as a young squad full of potential behind their longtime three-man core of Leonid "chopper" Vishnyakov, Boris "magixx" Vorobiev, and Abdul "degster" Gasanov. The Russian side have enjoyed success at the Malta Vibes Knockout Series 6, where they took home first place, and are among the strongest teams at the currently ongoing Pinnacle Cup IV.
Although they have seen their fair share of good performances in the events they have participated in, they have yet to put up significant results against tier-one opponents. If their narrow 11-16 loss against ENCE at the RMR is anything to go by, however, then Spirit may just be able to hang with some of the better teams at the Major.
Eternal Fire (#29)
- Looking to rally behind strong RMR victories
- XANTARES continues to impress
Eternal Fire head into the PGL Major as massive underdogs coming out of the Europe RMR A, where the Turkish superteam managed a seventh-place finish to qualify for the Belgian event. Their run was nothing short of remarkable, as they knocked out fnatic and a revamped OG en route to the Major.
For Eternal Fire, one name has always been the anchor to the team's success: Ismailcan "XANTARES" Dörtkardeş. The 26-year-old provides the much-needed firepower his squad needs to constantly bring the pressure to their opponents, and has shined bright over and over again. Riding the wave of momentum from their recent matches, one mustn't count Eternal Fire out from making a serious Cinderella run at the Major themselves.
- Outstanding five-match win streak at RMR
- Capable of pulling off upsets against strong opponents
9z made the PGL Major Antwerp by clinching the sixth and final spot at the Americas RMR after remarkably overcoming their 0-2 Swiss stage record and winning five best-of-threes in a row to lock in their place at the Major in Belgium. Their wins came at the expense of notable names such as Marcelo "coldzera" David's Brazilian team 00NATION, Jake "Stewie2K" Yip's Evil Geniuses, and finally against paiN in the sixth-place decider.
After such a strong showing of form during their run at the RMR, fans should not be so quick to count 9z out. The way they have been playing, it's not out of the picture for them to give some of the favorites in the Challengers stage a difficult time, though advancement to the Legends stage seems too far out of the realms of possibilities.
- Revitalized under Liazz's addition to the team
- Have had a tough time facing European opposition
Renegades qualified for the PGL Major through the Asia RMR, where they placed second overall, defeating TYLOO and Looking For Org in the process. They have been by far the Oceania region's strongest team, having won nearly every competition they played there since 2020 with the exception of just a few that they have had to pull out of.
The Australian outfit are definitely enjoying the contributions that Jay "Liazz" Tregillgas brings in his return to this revamped Renegades squad led by Simon "Sico" Williams's veteran leadership, who has been calling the shots since their RMR campaign. Although their success in the region is almost unmatched, the odds are definitely stacked against them in the Challengers stage versus international opponents who they are mostly unproven against.
- Won the Asia RMR after beating both favorites
- The first Mongolian team to attend any Major stage
- By far the least experienced side at the Major
IHC head into the Major in Belgium as their region's only representative. They took first place at the Asia RMR to ensure their qualification, beating both TYLOO and Renegades in a surprisingly convincing campaign. Adding to their RMR victory, IHC finished third in the ESL Challenger League Season 40 Asia-Pacific tournament.
Just like Renegades, the former Checkmate squad are still unproven against opponents outside their region. As most of their victories have come against fellow Asian teams, it'll be interesting to see how IHC's campaign at the PGL Major plays out and whether they can hang with the best once they come over to Europe for the first time.