PGL Major Antwerp playoffs preview
s1mple PGL Major Antwerp
Photo by Stefan Petrescu. Provided by PGL

PGL Major Antwerp playoffs preview

The teams, matchups and players to watch in the PGL Major Champions stage

PGL Major Antwerp 2022 is entering into its final leg: playoffs. In the Champions stage, from Thursday to Sunday, the top eight teams in the world battle it out in a single elimination bracket to decide who goes home with $500,000 and a major trophy.

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What’s more, the teams will be playing in the legendary Sportpaleis in Antwerp, Belgium in front of thousands of fans from across the world. Hundreds of thousands more people will be watching from home.

In the PGL Major Antwerp playoffs, a new legend will be made. Will Natus Vincere go back-to-back? Or, will a new contender take the throne?

PGL Major Antwerp Top 8

It’s rare to see a major with no clear favorite. The top eight at Antwerp is pretty close to being an open race, with perhaps a few exceptions. Certainly, there was no shortage of surprises as teams fought their way into the Champions stage.

To begin with, the story of the Legends stage has to be Team Spirit. The Russian team began this tournament as Contenders, the lowest seed possible. They battled their way through the Challengers stage and then absolutely dominated Legends stage, only losing one map to the Copenhagen Flames.

Spirit came out of nowhere and began to upset top teams like it was nothing. Even still, they’ll have to bring out a new level entirely to beat top eight teams with way more arena experience in best of three matches.

Team Spirit PGL Major Antwerp
Team Spirit at the PGL Major Antwerp Legends stage. | Photo by Stefan Petrescu. Provided by PGL.

Besides Spirit, the other team that went 3-0 in Legends stage is none other than Na’Vi. There’s not much to say about the defending champs that hasn’t been said. If this team is in form, they are (probably) the best team in the world.

The 3-1 Legends stage teams are ENCE, Ninjas in Pyjamas and FaZe Clan. Certainly ENCE and FaZe Clan were expected to be top eight teams, but the Ninjas were a bit of a wildcard coming into the major. Playing without their star AWPer Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtzand and recently adding Ludvig “Brollan” Brolin could’ve been a recipe for disaster. So far, that hasn’t been the case. Somehow the Swedes always find their way to the top, even when the odds are against them.

As for ENCE and FaZe, these were the dark horses and the tournament favorites, respectively. ENCE showed the world a new level in the lead-up to Antwerp and they haven’t slowed down since. FaZe are the best team in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive right now, favored to win even over the juggernaut that is Na’Vi. Both teams should do some damage in the playoffs.

Finally, there are the three teams that just squeaked into the PGL Major Antwerp playoffs: Heroic, Copenhagen Flames and FURIA Esports. Heroic should come as no surprise, given the pedigree of the team. FURIA were also a strong choice, considering their form in the lead-up to the major.

As for Copenhagen Flames, this is a team that rises to the occasion when the pressure is on. In spite of representing the smallest org of the top eight teams, the Danes have undoubtedly earned their spot in the playoffs.

Playoffs matchups

The first round of the PGL Major Antwerp playoffs is as follows:

  • Team Spirit vs. FURIA Esports (2 p.m. ET on Thursday)
  • FaZe Clan vs. Ninjas in Pyjamas (10:30 a.m. ET on Thursday)
  • ENCE vs. Copenhagen Flames (10:30 a.m. ET on Friday)
  • Natus Vincere vs. Heroic (2 p.m. ET on Friday)

The matchups that immediately jump out on first glance are FaZe vs. NiP and Na’Vi vs. Heroic. Those four teams have all been consistent, Tier 1 teams during the past few years. As the tournament favorites, if FaZe and Na’Vi come out of the matches looking strong, there’s a clear path to the grand final for the two teams. FaZe vs. Na’Vi is a finale everyone thought possible, but NiP and Heroic are no slouches. We may just see massive upsets in Round 1 of the playoffs.

Copenhagen Flames PGL Major Antwerp
Copenhagen Flames at the PGL Major Antwerp Legends stage. | Photo by Stefan Petrescu. Provided by PGL.

The other two matches will undoubtedly be scrappy bloodbaths. On paper, ENCE vs. Copenhagen Flames might be the most one-sided of all the Round 1 matches — but every team has proven their mettle, so don’t expect a blowout.

As for Spirit vs. FURIA, it’s anyone’s guess how that will play out. The Brazilians have been gifted a chance to reach the semifinals by getting past a Spirit team that lacks in-arena experience. Even still, they’ve lost to the Russians before at this tournament. Spirit may just have their number.

Players to watch

Lotan “Spinx” Giladi has been the revelation of early 2022. He is increasingly looking like one of the best riflers in the world. ENCE have, in large part, Spinx to thank for their meteoric rise to the top.

He posted a 1.28 rating in the Legends stage, the second highest of any player. ENCE will need Spinx to be playing at his highest level to advance, as well as some fragging help from teammates Paweł “dycha” Dycha and Aleksander “hades” Miskiewicz in particular.

Speaking of exciting new talent, Spirit’s Robert “Patsi” Isyanov is only 18-years-old. The Russian rifler was the fourth highest rated player in the Legends stage. His unexpected dominance has helped propel Spirit into upset after upset. Keep an eye on Patsi in the playoffs to see how the youngster fares in front of a screaming audience.

Meanwhile, Heroic are a team full of good, dependable players. Thus far, what they’ve really lacked is a superstar. Martin “stavn” Lund is trying to be that guy for his team.

Anyone on Heroic has the capacity to step up, but it’s stavn who is doing it consistently. He’s played incredibly well at Antwerp so far, and he’ll have to maintain that form if Heroic want a shot at toppling Na’Vi in the quarterfinals.

stavn PGL Major Antwerp
Martin “stavn” Lund at the PGL Major Antwerp Legends stage. | Photo by Stefan Petrescu. Provided by PGL.

Not all the players to watch are those in peak form. Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken struggled a bit during the Legends stage, with his teammate Håvard “rain” Nygaard picking up the slack. That’s not ideal for FaZe, who are at their best when their star trio — Twistzz, Robin “ropz” Kool and Helvijs “broky” Saukants — lead the way in the fragging department. Watch to see if Twistzz bounces back with a vengeance during the playoffs.

Finally, there’s another missing star in Denis “electroNic” Sharipov. Na’Vi have increasingly become the s1mple and Valerii “b1t” Vakhovskyi show. Still, they need electroNic to find his form if they’re going to topple the stiff competition that’s between them and a second consecutive major trophy.

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Coby Zucker
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.