IEM Rio Major profile: 00NATION
In July 2016, coldzera and TACO lifted the ESL One Cologne Major trophy. It was their second in just a spell of a few months, their Luminosity/SK side completing a feat of back-to-back Majors that only fnatic had done previously. Under the guidance of Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo, they had broken the stranglehold that European Counter-Strike had upon tier-one tournaments to become the team to beat.
coldzera was the best player in the world. TACO was his sidekick, his site anchor on CT-side and his entry fragger on T, a player whose place on the scoreboard was irrelevant in a team that knew his value. In 2017, their duo remained just as potent as the year before, as SK battled FaZe for the number one spot, and coldzera retained his place as the #1 player in world Counter-Strike.
In the Majors, however, SK's magic was broken. At PGL Major Krakow in 2017, SK were favourites but fell to Astralis in the quarter-finals. At both ELEAGUE Majors, in 2017 and 2018, SK had made roster changes after submitting their final roster for the Major, meaning they were forced to use stand-ins, a challenge they could not overcome.
Just a few months after ELEAGUE Major 2018, TACO and coldzera's duo was broken apart; TACO moved to Liquid with coach Wilton "zews" Prado, while coldzera remained in a now-international MIBR after the addition of Jake "Stewie2K" Yip. The two would re-unite in 2019 under the MIBR banner, but the magic that sparked Luminosity's rise to the top in 2016 had gone out. At the Berlin Major in September, MIBR bowed out in the group stage with zews standing in for the wantaway coldzera.
The online era beckoned, and while coldzera got his international challenge in FaZe and later Complexity, TACO returned to Brazil to try and build the next Luminosity from the ground up. He took up in-game leadership duties for a new-look GODSENT squad, picking up three rough diamonds from Brazil's evergreen pipeline of talent: Eduardo "dumau" Wolkmer, Bruno "b4rtiN" Câmara, and Bruno "latto" Rebelatto.
Bringing up the next generation was a responsibility coldzera eventually placed upon himself too, joining 00NATION as an in-game leader himself. TACO's GODSENT showed flashes of quality, hovering around the top thirty, but could not take the next step. They went 0-3 in Stockholm's Challenger Stage and failed to even qualify for Antwerp. coldzera's 00NATION had an even tougher time in 2022, and joined GODSENT as spectators rather than competitors for the Major.
These struggles sparked talks of a re-union between Luminosity's storied old duo, forging an alliance of the two old boys who had made Brazil and South America's next generation their priority. That re-union has now come to pass, with TACO, latto, and dumau joining coldzera and Santino "try" Rigal in 00NATION. The move has since borne instant fruit: coldzera and TACO will lead 00NATION out, in front of a capacity crowd, at their home Major.
Mixing experience with youth
coldzera may still be the highest-rated player of all time at Valve Majors, but it is unlikely he will reach his previous average of a 1.25 rating in Rio. His days as the all-conquering Terminator have passed, now operating as an experienced supportive element for the likes of dumau and try, with latto filling in as the squad's third star.
That has been the story so far, at least — neither coldzera nor TACO average higher than a 1.00 rating in this lineup's short time together. But, that is sort of the point. 00NATION is an earnest attempt from coldzera and TACO to nurture talent and make a competitive side for the future.
At 00NATION's only big event together so far, IEM Cologne in July, it was rifler dumau who showed the highest peaks, most notably in a 45-kill performance against Liquid on a map one victory for the South Americans.
When TACO was put on the spot to whether dumau was the "next big thing" in Brazil, he was quick to praise the young rifler's mindset. "dumau is a big fan of Michael Jordan and he follows all his steps," he said. "He wants to be the best — that's what he says, I'm not here trying to pretend something — and he works to be the best. He has his routine, he eats good, he goes to the gym. He does everything he can in and outside of the game to become the best. I'm going to do everything I can to make him a great player … it's just a matter of time."
At the RMR, attention turned to AWPer try as he powered 00NATION past Complexity to qualify for the Major. Still just 18 years old, the Argentinian is one of the most highly-rated prospects to come from the region — but he might have not been in this team at all. After an underwhelming first six months of 2022 in 00NATION's previous lineup, TACO has said that try "just wanted to go back to his country and do something else" before changing his mind.
Once his mind had swayed, it was a no-brainer for 00NATION to retain him. As hard as leaving b4rtiN was for the old GODSENT players, try is the dedicated AWPer that GODSENT lacked for so long. "The AWP is just too OP," said TACO on HLTV Confirmed. "You need a specialist in your team."
In latto, 00NATION have another teenager, this time 19, who is eager to learn from TACO and coldzera and forge his own place in the scene. The squad's third star, he is a hard-hitting yet fairly inconsistent rifler, showing his potential in maps like a 1.65 rating against Astralis.
An alternative route back to the glory days?
Overall, the young core of fragging power has clear potential to grow into, with TACO leading and coldzera transitioning into a supportive and secondary leadership figure. It is this mix of experience with young talent that sets 00NATION apart from their friends and rivals in Imperial.
Though the latter squad have proven they are more than a 'Last Dance' by picking up Marcelo "chelo" Cespedes in place of Lincoln "fnx" Lau and qualifying for back-to-back Majors, Imperial will always be more high-profile than their results perhaps warrant, operating as a marketing exercise just as much as a competitive squad.
In 00NATION, however, coldzera and TACO are giving back to the scene that nurtured them. They are giving life to new talent, giving them the experience and know-how that you can only get from two-time Major champions. That the new 00NATION are 3-0 in maps against Imperial only vindicates TACO and coldzera's decision further.
Brazil has lacked a second top-tier team ever since MIBR's collapse, leaving FURIA as the region's sole representative in the playoffs of events. 00NATION have not filled that void just yet, but that will be the first goal for them.
IEM Rio Major expectations
Making the Major itself is already a solid achievement for 00NATION, with teams like Complexity missing out in a fairly-competitive American RMR. "A good result would be us 00NATION making the Legends stage [top sixteen] but I hope we do fine, maybe top eight", commented try when asked about their goals for Rio.
With coldzera and TACO booked in for the show match before the final, it's fair to say that 00NATION do not expect to go all the way. Rather, It is a chance to enjoy the home crowd and gain valuable arena experience while hopefully taking a few scalps along the way.
IEM Rio is a celebration of Brazilian and South American Counter-Strike whether the crowd's heroes make a deep run or not: For TACO, "this Major will be something special for the players, the fans, everyone involved. Having a crowd in all three stages will be special." Without TACO and coldzera's Luminosity and SK squads, who knows how long we would have had to wait for a Major in Brazil?
Results-wise, IEM Rio might come too soon for 00NATION, but try, latto and dumau will only improve as time goes on. Under the stewardship of TACO, coldzera, Olavo "chucky" Napoleão, and old Luminosity/SK manager Ricardo "dead" Sinigaglia, there are fewer places they could learn better than where they already are. coldzera and TACO may have re-united, but this is no last dance — 00NATION's eyes are solely facing forward.
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Check out HLTV.org's IEM Rio Major hub