The first Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Major of 2022 is starting this Monday! The event part of Valve’s Major circuit will be hosted by PGL in Antwerp, Belgium, and it’s going to run until the 22nd, when a new champion will be crowned. As one of the biggest esports events of the Month, and even the year, the excitement surrounding this Major is palpable, and we’re in for some great weeks of Counter-Strike.

Now, no fan of Counter-Strike’s esports scene will want to miss such prestigious tournament. So, to be fully prepared for this Major, we’ve prepared this guide. Here you will find where to watch the event, when the tournament starts, as well as our traditional look at the storylines happening at this opening stage of the PGL Major Antwerp. Here’s everything you need to know about this Major’s Challengers Stage.

TOURNAMENT DETAILS

The PGL Major Antwerp: Challengers Stage is planned to kick off this Monday, 9th. The first two matches are set to start at 10:00 AM UTC and will see Bad News Eagles and Complexity taking on Eternal Fire and Team Vitality, respectively. The opening day of the tournament will see a today of sixteen matches being played, eight from the first round, and eight from the second.

As for the format being used, this first stage of the Major will run a Swiss System bracket with all matches from round 2 and forward being seeded using the Buchholz format. All matches are best-of-one series but decider and elimination games, which are best-of-threes. This stage also features sixteen teams, so the first eight teams to reach three wins will be the ones advancing to the next step of the tournament.

Lastly, but not least importantly, make sure to check your Pick’em Challenge picks if you’re participating. If you aren’t sure about your picks, make sure to check our guide available here.

With all that said, let’s take a look at the first-round bracket, and then head to our storyline previews.

IN WITH THE NEW – ASTRALIS

The only organization in Counter-Strike to have four Major titles is coming to Antwerp with humble hopes. Yet, this team knows that they have the potential to surprise the world. The Danish powerhouse led by Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander has seen its fair share of let-downs since the pandemic, and their last Major run certainly was an unremarkable one. Now, however, Astralis is in a much better place.

More noticeably, though, Astralis is coming to their first ever Major without two key players from their past. Their previous coach, Danny “zonic” Sørensen and Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen won’t be around the Danes this time around. Instead, the Danish team is bringing plenty of new faces, including one that has never been to a Major before.

THE START OF A NEW ERA FOR ASTRALIS

The PGL Major Antwerp won’t be Astralis first tournament with Asger “farlig” Jensen or any of the new players the organization is fielding. However, considering how prestigious this tournament is, it’s a mark in every Astralis player history. Namely, for the AWPer, it’s the first Major he’ll attend as a player. For gla1ve, it’s his first Major without Zonic backing him up as the team’s coach. For Astralis, whether it’s positive or not, they will be writing history starting this Monday.

Moreover, and more importantly, Antwerp holds a lot of trials for members of this team. Asger will be under the scope as everyone closely follows his every move at his first Major. As for the veteran Andreas “Xyp9x” Højsleth, he’ll show if he still has that fuel that powered him in the past and gave him the title of “Clutch Minister”. As for the duo of Benjamin “blameF” Bremer and Kristian “k0nfig” Wienecke, it’s their first Major in over three years. How eager are they?

Astralis will be facing IHC in their opening match of the event. While favorites, the Danish team could be in route for a quicksand trap. The Mongolian team left a strong impression last time we saw them, and in a best-of-one, everything can happen. Astralis’ players have the experience and must avoid this if they want to start things with the right foot.

MORE THAN JUST ANOTHER AMERICAN TEAM – COMPLEXITY

The second-best North American team managed to bring back Complexity to Valve’s circuit main event. However, differently than Team Liquid, Johnny “JT” Theodosiou team doesn’t have to worry about “carrying North Americas hopes” in Antwerp. Instead, Complexity only needs to worry about one thing: themselves. The truth is, independent of how Complexity fares at this event, North America’s situation in Counter-Strike won’t change. Their future, however, will be in play.

For that reason, Complexity is coming to this Major not as the second-best team in their region. They’re just underdogs. Right now, it’s all about fighting tooth and nail to subvert expectations. You might’ve missed but this roster has not been a popular pick for the Pick’em Challenge game. In fact, some are even having Complexity as one of the squads to be eliminated without getting a win. They need to change that. Complexity needs to show that they aren’t a team leaving such important event in last place.

For them to prove that, however, we’ll need to see some key improvements in this team from Monday onwards. Paytyn “junior” Johnson, the squad’s AWPer, has been quite inconsistent, often losing rounds for this team. He needs to find confidence and elevate his own individual form in Antwerp. Justin “FaNg” Coakley also has had his share of rough maps lately, too. Complexity simply can’t afford to have neither underperforming, let alone both.

Complexity will be tested both as a team and individually starting from Monday. Their first series will see them facing the favorites from Team Vitality, and that match will set the tone for the Americans going forward. If they can at the very least give trouble to the Europeans, that’s enough to keep hopes for this team alive.

STARS ALIGNED – ENCE

When ENCE reached the grand-finals of ESL Pro League Season XV weeks ago, the timing of their breakthrough seemed too perfect. Still, ENCE kept proving themselves over the past month and after strong showings, they are one of the dark horses coming to Antwerp. Undeniably, their current placing at the fourth best team in HLTV’s World Rankings might be inflated, but one also can’t deny that ENCE is certainly a candidate to be in the top five.

Nonetheless, expectations for ENCE in this Major are rising every day. The international team hasn’t just made a series of upsets since the last season of Pro League. Far from it. Instead, what fans are seeing is Eetu “sAw” Saha and Marco “Snappi” Pfeiffer’s scouting efforts paying off. The team’s star Lotan “Spinx” Giladi has been a highlight machine for a while now, but it’s only thanks to Pavle “maden” Bošković being the perfect fit for this roster that Spinx’ skill is being fully tapped.

As a matter of fact, this goes to show that ENCE recently-found success shouldn’t be all that surprising. Since joining the organization in early 2021, Snappi has been on a task to rebuild the team’s Counter-Strike division and have them reclaim their place against the best in the world. It has been a long process, but it seems that the stars have aligned this year. All pieces are in place for ENCE, and Antwerp could be another breaking point in ENCE’s history.

ENCE will be taking on 9z in their opener. While the South American team has a lot of momentum coming to Antwerp, ENCE is in a whole different level. The Europeans are targeting the likes of FaZe and Natus Vincere at this point, and simply having difficulties in this stage would be unacceptable.

HARDER, BETTER, FASTER, STRONGER – G2

G2’s storyline in Antwerp is a direct continuation of what happened in Stockholm last year. Back then, G2 reached the grand-finals but ultimately, they weren’t enough to challenge Natus Vincere. That series was marking in various ways, but more striking, G2 never had the upper-hand through their whole rivalry against Na’Vi. Noticeably, G2 was lacking a proper AWPer back then with ultimately held them back. Yet, the discrepancy between these two teams was surprising given Nikola “NiKo” Kovač competence.

2022 is G2’s year, though, or at least it is supposed to be. The team not only got themselves a natural AWPer with Ilya “m0NESY” Osipov, but they also brought in Aleksi “Aleksib” Virolainen to lead the team. These two are G2 upgrades to compete for trophies in equal footing with the likes of FaZe and Na’Vi. It’s difficult to find straight up upgrades when you’re already competing on the highest level of play, but G2, at least with m0NESY, has found one.

Now the Europeans are coming to the first Major of 2022 with hopes of showcasing what they’re able to do now. We’ve seen this G2 in action over the past months, but it feels like there has always been an asterisk in their past performances. Still, even having an asterisk next to their showings, G2 has still managed to impress over these past months. At IEM Katowice, they finished in 2nd place only losing to a strong-looking FaZe. At Pro League XV, they had to play without their captain for most part of the group stage.

IN THE RIGHT PLACE

After everything, the PGL Major Antwerp will be G2’s first premier tournament without any asterisks. Aleksib’s squad is coming to Belgium with high expectations. NiKo, his cousin, Nemanja “huNter-“ Kovač, and Audric “JACKZ” Jug are veterans, and we know very well what to expect from them. The Finnish part of the squad, Aleksi, isn’t new to Majors either and we know what to expect from him. The real mystery here for G2 will be how the team’s AWPer will perform.

Ilya is still developing as an AWPer, and this will be his first Major ever. Not only that, but the Russian is one of the youngest players to ever make to a Counter-Strike Major. He has shown to handle pressure well back in IEM Katowice 2022, but it’s undeniably that there’s a whole different atmosphere around one of Valve’s events. After all, it’s at Majors that legends are made and where players concretize themselves as names that the community will be still talking about for years to come.

To be completely clear, no one’s expecting m0NESY to get his own graffiti in Antwerp. Yet, Ilya has already made a name for himself in these past months, and who knows what the future – what Antwerp – holds for him? G2 is a team expected to get at least a top eight finish, and m0NESY is on a prime position to steal the show all for himself. It’d break any expectations we have for this team but if there’s one team that can break expectations, it certainly is G2.

CELEBRATING YESTERDAY’S STARS – IMPERIAL

Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo has received plenty of criticism since he announced The Last Dance project. Imperial is, admittedly, a reunion of mostly old faces, three of them which were far from competing on the highest level of play in these last couple of years. Still, since their first official series, Imperial has shown that they might not be the team with the best tactics or players around, but they have grit.

However, the PGL Major Antwerp will be Imperial’s first real challenge. First and foremost, this is a Major. Antwerp won’t be the first Major for any of Imperial’s players, but the event’s importance as well as the pressure is still around for newcomers and veterans alike. Then, this is also Imperial’s first time attending a premier tournament. In Belgium, FalleN and his teammates could face the likes of ENCE and G2, and that situates the Brazilians in a very interesting situation.

So far, Imperial has found success by focusing on their experience and team chemistry. Lincoln “fnx” Lau and Ricardo “boltz” Prass might not be winning duels outright, but both are still able to do decently in clutch situations thanks to their level of experience, for example. This was possible as Imperial faced mostly teams from the Americas, and their only encounter with Europeans saw them facing the likes of MOUZ NXT. This changes now.

Imperial has the potential of being one of the most interesting teams to watch in Antwerp. Their opening match against Team Spirit will be decent, but it’s after round 2 that their run will get interesting. How far can a team driven by their status as veterans and their experience go? Perhaps even more importantly, can Imperial be more than just these two elements together?

LIQUID HOPE – TEAM LIQUID

Liquid fans expectations for the North American powerhouse have been all over the place in these past weeks. Back in Pro League, Liquid impressed by defeating Heroic. After beating one of the best teams in Europe, many thought that the roster reached a defining point in their journey. However, more recently, Liquid was beaten by paiN in BLAST Premier: Spring Showdown 2022, and that match displayed why Team Liquid can’t still be considered a contender.

Now, there’s a set of reasons as to why Team Liquid isn’t quite ready to compete with Europe’s finest. Yet, ironically, Liquid’s most plain issue is Liquid’s French player, Richard “shox” Papillon. The veteran player was, assumably, brough to this roster to help Nicholas “nitr0” Cannella, Liquid’s captain, set himself back in Counter-Strike after his stint in VALORANT. However, with nitr0 getting back on his feet in Global Offensive, shox place in this roster is becoming questionable.

The real issue with shox right now is that while he isn’t expected to be fragging out, he is playing far worst than many expected. Back to Liquid’s game against paiN, we saw shox committing various dubious moves in the server. From weird pushes to failing to clear angles, shox failed to play on an acceptable level and no team can afford to have a player doing mistakes like this.

OUT WITH THE NEGATIVITY

Team Liquid, nor its fans, can’t ignore shox performances, but there’s more to this team than just the French player. Instead, why not look at the positives for this roster? For example, Joshua “oSee” Ohm is doing an excellent job as an AWPer. The 22-year-old American has been the best out of Liquid’s most recent roster moves without any doubts. Having a reliable sniper helps the team’s spearheads find space in their setups.

Moreover, nitr0 has also been showing improvements since his debut earlier in the year. It might sound obvious that a player is getting better with time. Yet, we’re talking about North American CS, so that’s not a given. When we remember Evil Geniuses’ situation, Team Liquid fans have a lot to be thankful for.

Finally, Team Liquid also has Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski and Keith “NAF” Markovic in their ranks. EliGE and NAF are both world-class riflers and some of the best players North America has seen in recent years in the server. With oSee alongside these two, the sky is really the limit for this roster.

Before they reach the sky, though, they must first go through Antwerp. While I don’t see them having the easiest time at the Challenger Stage, they are still expected to advance through. Ideally, they would also be expected to be a top eight team, but we first need to see which Team Liquid – and which shox – will show up starting this Monday.

WITH THEIR BACKS AGAINST THE WALL – OUTSIDERS

Since their time at AVANGAR, the core of Outsiders composed by Aleksei “Qikert” Golubev, Dzhami “Jame” Ali and Timur “buster” Tulepov have been through some highs and lows. However, it seems that right now, this squad is at its darkest time. The war is affecting this roster outside the game, and amidst the uncertain of their future, some of Outsiders’ rivals have completely figure this team and found how to punish Jame for his passive style.

Yet, it seems that Outsiders shine when their backs are against the wall. Last year, they got known for the “paid by the round” meme, as it was rare to see this roster closing matches comfortably. More recently, they went to the first European RMR A and they found themselves at the verge of elimination. After two difficult matches against Dignitas and sAw, both with saw Outsiders coming back from a disadvantage, they made to the Major.

This goes to show that Outsiders might struggle in almost every aspect of the game, but if there’s one thing this team doesn’t lack is resilience. Outsiders is with their backs against the wall in Antwerp, but they have kept proving themselves to be able to perform when it’s least expected of them, and why it would be different at one of the most important events of the year?

WAITING FOR WHAT THEY’RE MISSING – TEAM VITALITY

Team Vitality has seen some very mixed results of lately. To cut off the chase, Vitality did the bare minimum, which is qualifying for Antwerp, but they still didn’t look like the powerhouse this roster can be. Yet, even if small, Vitality has shown some improvements since we saw them crumbling in Katowice back in February. More specifically, at the RMRs, Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen stood out for this team, and along with Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut, they pushed this squad through the finish line.

Still, Team Vitality has some very questionable issues that Dan “apEX” Madesclaire and Danny “zonic” Sørensen have been unable to solve. One of these is Kévin “misutaaa” Rabier’s individual form. The young French player has never performed on a star level consistently, but since Vitality brought in the Danish reinforcement at the start of the year, his level has been underwhelming. Kévin feels out of place and uncomfortable under this team, and it’s hurting both him and the squad.

Yet, just like Team Liquid, it’s easy to be overly negative about Vitality. They might’ve faced a rough road in their qualification for Antwerp. And misutaaa’s form will have to be addressed at some point, but this team managed to challenge FaZe Clan in their latest encounter. Also, while Na’Vi defeated the Frenchmen without dropping a map in their series in the RMRs, it wasn’t a beatdown. Vitality put a fight, and both maps went to 29 rounds. Vitality is one piece away from greatness, and there’s a real chance that time will be the factor bringing this missing element to the team later.

As for Antwerp, Team Vitality is one of the favorites to advance. They’ll face Complexity first and will be favorites against the Americans.

THE PGL MAJOR ANTWERP STARTS SHORTLY

This Monday, be sure to tune in at PGL’s channels on Steam.TV, Twitch or YouTube to not miss a bit of the first CSGO Major of 2022. For the opening rounds of the Challengers Stage, a secondary stream will also be available, so don’t miss that, too.

The post PGL Major Antwerp 2022: The Challengers Stage Preview appeared first on Esports Betting Tips.

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PGL Major Antwerp 2022: The Challengers Stage Preview