As the largest and most competitive region in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, the European region is sending 11 different teams to the PGL Major Stockholm. Many of them are title contenders, a handful are dark horses and a few are, in all honesty, mostly there for the ride. Exciting stories and matchups abound as teams return for the first major in over two years.
Ninjas in Pyjamas – Legend status
Home team favorites Ninjas in Pyjamas will have all of Sweden backing them as they look to snag their first major since ESL Cologne: 2014. A lot has changed since 2014, and this iteration of the NiP roster is young with a lot still to prove.
At the last major, Starladder Berlin in 2019, the Swedish legends Patrik “f0rest” Lindberg and Christopher “GeT_RiGhT” Alesund were still part of the squad. Their only returning member is Fredrik “REZ” Sterner and for three of the Swedes — Nicolas “Plopski” Gonzalez Zamora, Hampus “hampus” Poser and Linus “LNZ” Holtäng — this will be their first major. LNZ and Plopski will draw special attention as the two young guns on the team, still looking to prove themselves. For LNZ, the major could be his opportunity to earn himself a permanent spot on the roster.
NiP are coming to the major off of a hot streak, winning the IEM Fall qualifier. The team’s one Dane Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz was the tournament’s MVP. The PGL Major will be his opportunity to cement his legacy by showing he can dominate even outside the Astralis system. For a roster that hasn’t been able to find its footing, IEM Fall was a good sign.
>Because the major is being held in Stockholm, NiP may even have more to gain from a good showing than other teams. Unlike their neighbors to the south in Denmark, Sweden is still struggling to accept and promote Counter-Strike.
“Sweden is still working on accepting CS as a sport,” REZ said in a press conference during IEM Fall. “There are still discussions about that. I think it’s really good that we bring it home here in Stockholm and Sweden. Bring it more attention and all that.”
NiP’s PGL Major Stockholm roster:
- Fredrik “REZ” Sterner
- Nicolas “Plopski” Gonzalez Zamora
- Hampus “hampus” Poser
- Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz
- Björn “THREAT” Pers (Coach)
- Erik “ztr” Gustafsson (Substitute)
Team Vitality – Legend status
Vitality have shown they have what it takes to compete at the highest level of CS. They are the most recent team to really challenge Natus Vincere, the unanimous favorites to win the major, in an S-Tier event during the best-of-five grand finals at ESL Pro League Season 14. While one tournament isn’t exactly a huge sample size, it was still encouraging to see the team playing top level CS. Like most of the teams at the major, Vitality wasn’t spared from the pandemic roster shuffle. Only Dan “apEX” Madesclaire and Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut played for the team at the Starladder Berlin Major. Their newest member Jayson “Kyojin” Nguyen Van only joined in April of 2021. Vitality is his first foray into Tier 1 CS.
“Kyojin was a big rookie when he joined the team in April,” apEX said at IEM Fall. “Obviously, we had the time to adapt to him and he had time to adapt to the highest level, which is not an easy task.”
Currently ranked No. 3 in the world, behind Na’Vi and NiP, Vitality have a lot to owe to their Coach Rémy “XTQZZZ” Quoniam and to apEX, for settling comfortably into his IGL role. The team has managed to put together a system that fits well around their star AWPer ZywOo. As to ZywOo himself, the major will be yet another chance for the second best player in the world to test his mettle against s1mple. A rematch with the Russian powerhouse in Na’Vi would be nothing short of electric.
“Everything is possible,” apEX said. “We’re going to give it our all. I don’t care who we face.”
Vitality’s PGL Major Stockholm roster:
- Dan “apEX” Madesclaire
- Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut
- Kévin “misutaaa” Rabier
- Jayson “Kyojin” Nguyen Van
- Richard “shox” Papillon
- Rémy “XTQZZZ” Quoniam (Coach)
- Alexandre “bodyy” Pianaro (Substitute)
G2 Esports – Legend status
What is there to say about G2? Somehow, the international squad is simultaneously one of the best and worst of the Tier 1 CS teams. Their impressive run to reach the finals of IEM Cologne already feels like a distant dream. More recent results, like their failure to qualify for the BLAST Fall Finals after an embarrassing 2-1 loss to MAD Lions, is fresh on the mind.
But, not all is lost. There are silver linings that make G2 a definite threat. For starters, the team actually fields one of the more experienced rosters coming into the major. All five of their players have competed in a major before. They’re also a team that seems to excel in the LAN environment. What’s more, there’s always the potential for the Kovač cousins — Nemanja “huNter-” Kovač and Nikola “NiKo” Kovač — to go nuclear and dominate any game. Even at G2’s lowest points, NiKo has been in top form. If the supporting cast steps up, anything is possible for G2. And, if they don’t, there’s a strong probability that G2 will be partaking in the post-major roster shuffle.
G2’s PGL Major Stockholm roster:
- François “AmaNEk” Delaunay
- Nemanja “nexa” Isaković
- Nemanja “huNter-” Kovač
- Nikola “NiKo” Kovač
- Audric “JaCkz” Jug
- Damien “maLeK” Marcel (Coach)
- Kenny “kennyS” Schrub (Substitute)
Astralis – Challenger status
The band is back together. With Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander returning to the roster — after taking a leave for the birth of his son — and Lucas “Bubzkji” Andersen being bumped to the substitute slot, four out of the five players from the roster that dominated CS:GO throughout 2018 and 2019 will be competing together again. Astralis returns as the defending champions and the most successful organization of all time with four major titles beneath their belt, three of them won consecutively. But not all is as it once was. The online era was a bit rocky for the Danes, with a lot of roster moves — dev1ce leaving to join Ninjas in Pyjamas, for instance — and temporary absences. All that said, the team was in good form at IEM Fall and looked to be playing like their old selves. As one of the most experienced rosters at the event, it’s entirely possible that the team will benefit from the LAN and arena environment.
“It’s really great just to go out and feel the energy from your teammates and feel like we’re actually out there like we used to be because this is where we want to perform. This is where we’ve always been performing,” Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen said at IEM Fall. “So, it just feels like we’re on another level in terms of communication. People want it a bit more. We can feel the effort people are putting into the game a lot more than when we’re sitting at home.”
For the team, this could be the final event with their core roster as dupreeh, Emil “Magisk” Reif and Coach Danny “zonic” Sørensen all face expiring contracts in the new year.
Astralis’ PGL Major Stockholm roster:
- Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander
- Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen
- Emil “Magisk” Reif
- Andreas “Xyp9x” Højsleth
- Philip “Lucky” Ewald
- Danny “zonic” Sørensen (Coach)
- Lucas “Bubzkji” Andersen (Substitute)
ENCE – Challenger status
ENCE are one of the more surprising teams to qualify for the PGL Major. Certainly there’s no absence of veteran leadership with 31-year-old Danish IGL Marco “Snappi” Pfeiffer at the helm. But the roster also features some more untested quantities in players like Olek “hades” Miskiewicz and Lotan “Spinx” Giladi. Both Spinx and hades leveled up massively in the past few months as the team made a blistering advance through the IEM Fall bracket. This secured them second at the event and ample RMR points for qualification. In some ways, ENCE are the lovable band of misfits that have been thrown together and are somehow making it work. Their longest tenured members are their two Finns Joonas “doto” Forss and Coach Eetu “sAw” Saha. Asides from them, the rest of the team was added within the past year.
The PGL Major will be a massive test for this squad, who are still in the early stages of discovering their potential as a group of five.
ENCE’s PGL Major Stockholm roster:
- Marco “Snappi” Pfeiffer
- Joonas “doto” Forss
- Olek “hades” Miskiewicz
- Paweł “dycha” Dycha
- Lotan “Spinx” Giladi
- Eetu “sAw” Saha (Coach)
- Aleksi “allu” Jalli (Substitute)
BIG – Challenger status
BIG have been a firmly middle of the pack team for some time now. Ever since they slotted in Nicklas “gade” Gade to replace İsmailсan “XANTARES” Dörtkardeş, their results have been consistently average. Even before that, over the past couple years, their highs haven’t been very high and their lows haven’t been very low. A recent slump from star AWPer Florian “syrsoN” Rische has definitely hurt the squad. They will not be viewed as a serious contender moving into the PGL Major, but all that could change if the team hits a hot streak.
On the positive side, BIG are a team that have LAN experience in spades. They also have a methodical, utility driven approach to CS that could prove beneficial when implementing the new grenade-dropping mechanic that was released with Operation Riptide. As a whole, BIG seem like a team that can beat or lose to almost anyone, depending on what version of the German squad shows up in Stockholm.
BIG’s PGL Major Stockholm roster:
- Johannes “tabseN” Wodarz
- Tizian “tiziaN” Feldbusch
- Florian “syrsoN” Rische
- Nils “k1to” Gruhne
- Nicklas “gade” Gade
- Nikola “LEGIJA” Ninić (Coach)
- Nico “Aqua” Kembitzky (Substitute)
Movistar Riders – Challenger status
What a story for the Movistar Riders, the first Spanish team to qualify for a major. The team has looked reinvigorated since adding Raúl “DeathZz” Jordán Nieto, Alvaro “SunPayus” Garcia and David “dav1g” Granado Bermudo to the team. They join the veterans Alejandro “mopoz” Fernández-Quejo Cano and Alejandro “ALEX” Masanet Candela. The speed with which DeathZz, SunPayus and dav1g have adapted to Tier 1 CS is nothing short of incredible. Special attention has to be given to SunPayus, who has boasted a 1.18 rating on HLTV over the last three months. His consistent and stalwart AWPing has been a highlight of the Riders’ play over their last few events.
When the team overhauled to return to their Spanish roots, they had no expectations to qualify for the PGL Major. Their strong performance at IEM against the stiffest competition Europe has to offer caught even them off-guard.
“Since the first day, the chemistry on this team… I don’t know,” Coach Galder “bladE” Barcena said. “I could feel it. I could feel it since the first practice game. And I think this is the result.”
It’s hard not to root for this team. This will be the first major for all five of the players; an especially gratifying experience for mopoz and ALEX. They’ve been grinding the Tier 2 circuits with the Riders since 2017 and 2018, respectively.
Movistar Riders’ PGL Major Stockholm roster:
- Raúl “DeathZz” Jordán Nieto
- Alvaro “SunPayus” Garcia
- David “dav1g” Granado Bermudo
- Alejandro “mopoz” Fernández-Quejo Cano
- Alejandro “ALEX” Masanet Candela
- Galder “bladE” Barcena (Coach & Substitute)
Heroic – Challenger status
The Danes on Heroic have been under close scrutiny since ESIC came out with a report declaring that their players cannot be charged as complicit with Nicolai “HUNDEN” Petersen’s use of the coach bug exploit. Gossip has followed in the wake of the team ever since the cheating incident and it has evidently been hard on the players involved, who released a video outlining their side of the story.
Still, in spite of all the scandals and legal kerfuffles, the Danes have consistently looked like a top five team throughout the online era, even winning EPL Season 13. It remains to be seen whether they can replicate those results on LAN. No matter what, it will be a valuable experience for the members of the team who, with the exception of Casper “cadiaN” Møller, will all be attending their first major.
Heroic have been in good form recently, in spite of a lackluster IEM Fall. They swept through the BLAST Showdown to secure their spot at BLAST Fall Finals in the Copenhagen Royal Arena without dropping a map. If they can bring that momentum into the major, they should be an easy pick to advance to the New Legends stage of the tournament, and perhaps deeper into the playoffs. They also recently added CS:GO legend and NiP alumnus, Richard “Xizt” Landström, as an analyst and temporary coach. There’s no telling what he’ll bring to the table but it certainly can’t hurt to relieve some of the pressure on cadiaN.
Maybe the major will be their chance to finally shed their tainted reputation, which has been a monkey on their backs over the past year.
>Heroic’s PGL Major Stockholm roster:
- Casper “cadiaN” Møller
- Martin “stavn” Lund
- René “TeSeS” Madsen
- Ismail “refrezh” Ali
- Rasmus “sjuush” Beck
- Richard “Xizt” Landström (Coach & Substitute)
MOUZ – Challenger status
Despite an early exit from IEM Fall, MOUZ were able to coast their way into a Challengers slot at the PGL Major off the back of their first place finish at the first RMR event of the year, Flashpoint Season 3. The expectations for the squad are fairly low with no real noteworthy success in the past couple months.
The team has a solid amount of LAN experience with only two major debutants in Frederik “acoR” Gyldstrand and Aurimas “Bymas” Pipiras. Their dynamic fragging duo of Robin “ropz” Kool and David “frozen” Čerňanský can bring a lot of firepower to the table. If they’re both playing their best CS, there may yet be hope for MOUZ’s longevity at the major.
MOUZ’s PGL Major Stockholm roster:
- Robin “ropz” Kool
- David “frozen” Čerňanský
- Christopher “dexter” Nong
- Frederik “acoR” Gyldstrand
- Aurimas “Bymas” Pipiras
- Torbjørn “mithR” Nyborg (Coach)
- Jon “JDC” de Castro (Substitute)
Copenhagen Flames – Contenders status
The Copenhagen Flames have had a tough run of it the past couple years. The Danish organization has turned into a bit of a talent factory. Their best players and rosters are getting grabbed up by bigger buyers. The management only wants the best for their players and doesn’t stand in their way. So, for the team to qualify for the PGL Major under the Copenhagen Flames banner? Well, that means a lot to them.
The team fields a mix of veteran and rookie players, with Fredrik “roeJ” Jørgensen as the cornerstone. On the flip side, at 17-year-old Rasmus “Zyphon” Nordfoss will be the youngest player at the entire event. It will certainly be a big step up for most of the team, who’ve mostly been confined to Tier 2 events for the duration of their careers.
This run at the PGL Major may be the organization’s only chance to show the world what they’ve got before the roster is bought up and it’s back to square one again. For the players, the major is the perfect staging ground to advertise themselves and drive up their future salaries with their next team. They could also win the lion’s share of two million dollars and the most prestigious title CS:GO has to offer.
Copenhagen Flames’ PGL Major Stockholm roster:
- Jakob “Jabbi” Nygaard
- Nico “nicoodoz” Tamjidi
- Fredrik “roeJ” Jørgensen
- Rasmus “HooXi” Nielsen
- Rasmus “Zyphon” Nordfoss
- Daniel “vorborg” Vorborg (Coach)
- Niels Christian “NaToSaphiX” Sillassen (Substitute)
FaZe Clan – Contenders status
After being knocked out of IEM Fall, FaZe had a tense weekend of waiting and watching to see how the results panned out. There was a strong possibility that they wouldn’t even qualify for the event. They scraped through and now the experienced roster will attend yet another major. While qualifying for a major is a dream for any CS:GO pro, it means a little extra for two FaZe players Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer Gustafsson and Helvijs “broky” Saukants. For olofmeister, the qualification means he continues his streak of attending every single major in CS:GO’s history. The Swede also gets to play on home soil, barely five minutes from where he lives. As for broky, this will be his first major, as well as the first ever major for a pro from Latvia.
Although their performance at IEM Fall is not what we’ve come to expect from this roster and the FaZe organization, fans shouldn’t worry too much. The team has accrued something of a reputation for upping their game in LAN environments. Besides Astralis, FaZe might be the one other European team that is expected to outperform their online play by a sizable margin.
FaZe’s PGL Major Stockholm roster:
- Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer
- Håvard “rain” Nygaard
- Finn “karrigan” Andersen
- Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken
- Helvijs “broky” Saukants
- Viacheslav “innersh1ne” Britvin (Coach & Substitute)
Coby Zucker is Upcomer's resident CS:GO writer. He's also played League of Legends at the collegiate level and is a frequent visitor in TFT Challenger Elo. He's a firm believer that Toronto should be the next big esports hub city.