PGL Major Antwerp quarterfinal preview: Predictions & players to watch
With the first two stages of PGL Major Antwerp in the rearview mirror, only eight teams remain in contention. We’ve set out what you need to know about the upcoming quarter-final clashes to begin the playoffs.
PGL Major Antwerp will resume on May 19 with the single-elimination playoffs, which will be held in front of a crowd at Antwerps Sportpaleis. The tournament is down to its final eight teams, with a number of favorites, including reigning Major champions NAVI, still in contention, along with some newcomers.
For ENCE, Team Spirit and Copenhagen Flames, this will be their first time down this path, and the pressure will only intensify once they step onto the stage and are greeted by the crowd. For FaZe, too, there’s also a sense of urgency – they are the No.1 team in the world and the favorites to go all the way in Antwerp. Will they finally break their Major duck and overcome the demons of their 2018 Boston heartbreak?
As the playoffs near, fans are salivating at the prospect of a final between FaZe and NAVI, the two best teams in the world, who are on opposite ends of the bracket. Read on as we break down every quarterfinal encounter and highlight the players to watch in this round. Be sure to check out our full PGL Major Antwerp hub for all the results from the tournament so far.
NIP vs FaZe – May 19
The playoff stage will kick off with a mouth-watering series between two top-10 teams that made it through the Legends Stage with a 3-1 record.
NIP have had to make it work without Nicolai ‘dev1ce’ Reedtz, who remains sidelined due to mental health issues, with his return date still a mystery. The AWP has fallen into the hands of Patrick ‘es3tag’ Hansen, a jack-of-all-trades sort of player, and while his numbers haven’t been exactly elite, he has been able to hold his own and make a solid contribution – which came as a relief to NIP’s fans after he had struggled in this role during his ill-fated Cloud9 stint.
The Swedish team showed world-class form in their bouts with Vitality and FURIA, but their struggles in the two maps that they lost to NAVI showed that they are probably still some way short of being able to go toe-to-toe with the cream of the crop. Their upcoming match-up against No.1-ranked FaZe could see them experience the same issues.
FaZe traveled to Antwerp as the red-hot favorites after winning the last two big LAN events, IEM Katowice and ESL Pro League Season 15 in convincing fashion. Going forward, that weight of expectation will become even greater as they seek their first Major crown. The question is how they will deal with that pressure, especially in-game leader Finn ‘karrigan’ Andersen, who came close to winning ELEAGUE Major Boston in 2018 with FaZe before the team collapsed in the dying moments of the title decider against Cloud9.
In Antwerp, FaZe haven’t been exactly the dominant team many expected them to be. They got off on the wrong foot, losing 16-8 to ENCE, before hammering Bad News Eagles and Cloud9 in best-of-one games. They also struggled initially against Copenhagen Flames but ended the series in full control, with Russel ‘Twistzz’ Van Dulken suggesting that they’re hitting “a good stride” heading into the playoffs.
Players to watch:
Håvard ‘rain’ Nygaard was a key performer for FaZe during the Legends Stage, averaging a team-high 1.20 HLTV rating and 1.37 Impact (the fifth-highest overall). Critics have suggested that he is the weakest link in this star-studded FaZe squad, but the Norwegian continues to prove time and time again that he remains a key cog.
On the side of NIP, a lot rides on the shoulders of Fredrik ‘REZ’ Sterner, who has one of the highest ceilings in the scene but only rarely taps into his potential. The blockbuster signing of Ludvig ‘Brollan’ Brolin from Fnatic has alleviated some of the pressure on REZ, but he will need to be at his absolute best for the team to have the firepower to match FaZe.
Dexerto Prediction: 2-0 FaZe
Spirit vs FURIA – May 19
Almost every Major, it seems like there’s a CIS team ready to defy the odds and prove everyone wrong. In Antwerp, that honor belongs to Team Spirit, who went through the first two stages of the Major almost unscathed, losing just one game (an overtime brawl with G2 Esports in the Challengers Stage) en route to the playoffs. Each player on this team has allegedly put in over 100 hours into the game over the past two weeks, which speaks volumes to their commitment to the cause, and they’re seeing the results of their work in the server.
The Russian team, who have an average age of just 20.7 years old – the lowest of all teams at the Major – went 3-0 in the Legends Stage, to the surprise of everyone. Critics will say that they were not properly tested in the progression series, but the fact that the three teams that they beat (FURIA, Heroic and Copenhagen Flames) are in the playoffs should settle the debate about their merits.
FURIA went into the Major with genuine dark-horse potential but had a rocky road to the playoffs, only making it through the Legends Stage in the final round after a three-map thriller against G2 Esports.
The Brazilian team solved one of their glaring weaknesses when they picked up AWPer Rafael ‘saffee’ Costa from paiN Gaming at the start of the year but they are yet to prove that they can challenge for the biggest honors. FURIA have more to offer than Spirit in terms of stage experience, but if they start out slowly, they will have a hard time picking up the pace. In a recent interview, Kaike ‘KSCERATO’ Cerato suggested that his team tend to struggle against opponents from other regions, and a rematch against the red-hot CIS side could spell the end of the road for them in Antwerp.
Players to watch:
It will be quite interesting to watch the AWP battle between Abdul ‘degster’ Gasanov and saffee, but Robert ‘Patsi’ Isyanov is the player that could really set the tone for this match. The 18-year-old had the highest impact in the Legends Stage (1.50) and will be looking to wreak more havoc against the Brazilians after putting up a 1.26 HLTV rating in the best-of-one game on May 14.
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Dexerto Prediction: 2-1 Spirit
ENCE vs Copenhagen Flames – May 20
This could turn out to be the final hurrah of Copenhagen Flames as the team’s players are entertaining individual offers, which will likely bring an end to one of the best feel-good stories in the CS:GO scene in recent memory.
The Danish team has already gone one better than at the Stockholm Major, when they were knocking on the doors of the playoffs before losing to NIP in the final round of the Legends Stage. They still left it late to book a playoff spot, though, only getting it right on the third attempt following defeats to Spirit and FaZe.
Copenhagen Flames head into this match without any sort of pressure against an ENCE team currently ranked third in the world rankings and riding a wave of confidence. It has been an amazing start to the year for ENCE, a team filled with hungry players who have never reached this level before. For four of their players, this will be their first time playing in front of a crowd.
The best-of-one Legends Stage game between these two teams, where Copenhagen Flames ran out 16-8 winners, should be enough to prove that the outcome of the series is not a foregone conclusion and that there’s some upset potential here. However, ENCE should have the upper hand in this best-of-three series that could serve as a rousing send-off for the vibrant Copenhagen Flames team.
Players to watch:
Lotan ‘Spinx’ Giladi and Paweł ‘dycha’ Dycha have been in amazing form this year, and they were joint-second in the Legends Stage for HLTV rating, going at 1.28. With Fredrik ‘roeJ’ Jørgensen blowing hot and cold in the previous stage, many viewers will have their eyes on Rasmus ‘Zyphon’ Nordfoss, who put up a series high 1.54 rating against Imperial. Will he be able to carry that form into the playoffs?
Dexerto Prediction: 2-1 ENCE
NAVI vs Heroic – May 20
One month later, NAVI and Heroic meet again. On April 18, the two teams locked horns in the RMR tournament, with the Danes walking away with a 2-1 victory to end a six-match losing stream on LAN against the CIS heavyweights.
Casper ‘cadiaN’ Møller has made no secret about the importance of this moment, but the stakes will be much, much higher now. In a recent interview with Dexerto, the charismatic Heroic leader admitted that the team tends to lose a bit of their edge in high-pressure moments as communication gets “stressed” – and it will certainly be put to the test against a NAVI team looking to defend their Stockholm crown.
NAVI made it through the Legends Stage without losing a match, but it wasn’t as clean as the record might suggest: they edged past G2 in overtime and dropped a map to NIP in a series where they dominated the other two maps.
The war in Ukraine has raised questions about the future of this roster, with NAVI expected to make a decision sometime in the summer. This is not a NAVI team without cracks, as their recent results have shown, but they have a more loaded roster in terms of firepower and have the psychological edge over a Heroic side that has shown a tendency to come up short in key moments.
Players to watch:
Martin ‘stavn’ Lund has shown in Antwerp why he is one of the best players in the world, averaging an impressive 1.22 HLTV rating in the Legends Stage as Heroic went 3-2 after some really close games. (His closest teammate, cadiaN, put up a 1.09 rating.)
With Denis ‘electroNic’ Sharipov looking a bit off-form, NAVI fans will hope that Valeriy ‘B1T’ Vakhovskiy will stay sharp after he topped the leaderboards in multiple categories in the previous stage, including HLTV rating (1.43), damage per round (98.3) and kills per round (0.92)
Dexerto Prediction: 2-1 NAVI