Vitality’s CSGO team makes the Antwerp Major, but barely - Dexerto
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Vitality’s CSGO team makes the Antwerp Major, but barely

Published: 21/Apr/2022 15:15

by Luís Mira

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For a team built with championship expectations, Vitality came surprisingly close to missing the first CS:GO Major of 2022. What is going on with the French/Danish team? 

With their backs against the wall and their qualification hopes hanging by a thread, Vitality once again turned to Mathieu ‘ZywOo’ Herbaut to get out of the hole they were in.

Called to action, he pulled another rabbit out of the hat and kept his team in it with an imperious display.

João Ferreira/Dexerto
ZywOo played a key role as Vitality came back from a map down vs MOUZ

It was a sight that Vitality fans had witnessed at PGL Major Stockholm, where ZywOo single-handedly kept the team in the tournament after they had gone 0-2 in the New Legends Stage. Staring elimination in the face following defeats to Virtus.pro and Heroic, Dan ‘apEX’ Madesclaire urged his star player to step up. “I told him, I was completely honest, if he’s not there we’re not going to qualify,” he later told HLTV.org.

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In a way, the stakes were much higher now. As Vitality trailed MOUZ in the series after losing Nuke, they were one map away from elimination. That would have seen Vitality miss their first Major since entering CS:GO in 2018. It would have also ended Peter ‘dupreeh’ Rasmussen’s perfect streak of 16 Major appearances.

But ZywOo had different plans. The French prodigy, who is as much praised for the player he is as he is criticised for not being the player he is most often compared to, turned in a 1.89 rating – his highest on LAN since the start of the year – on Dust2 to help Vitality tie the series at 1-1. It was the catalyst for the team’s comeback as they would go on to secure the decider map, Mirage, dupreeh calmly putting the game beyond MOUZ with a 1v2 clutch in a round Vitality had no business winning.

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As the players got up from their seats and embraced dupreeh, relief was visible on everyone, from youngster Kévin ‘misutaaa’ Rabier to veteran head coach Danny ‘zonic’ Sørensen. It was a much-needed victory for the team, who had come under intense pressure heading into this Major qualifying event after a series of mixed results.

In Vitality’s defence, they had the toughest route to the Major of all teams in their RMR tournament, having had to face the current No.1 and No.2 sides in the world, FaZe and NAVI, in addition to No.15-ranked MOUZ. But when the roster was announced, almost no one envisaged such difficulties from a team with Major-winning talent and ZywOo.

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Facing roadblocks

Vitality announced their 2022 CS:GO roster amid much fanfare, with a high-production video that epitomized the French organization’s lofty esports goals. Vitality were here to win the biggest trophies, and they would stop at nothing in their pursuit of success, as evidenced by their lavish spending in both League of Legends and CS:GO.

Dupreeh, Emil ‘Magisk’ Reif and zonic may not have as much swagger as Luka ‘Perkz’ Perković, but they have the sort of winning pedigree that is hard to come by in the CS:GO scene.

“We have the best player in the world in CS, so it’s common sense to be super aggressive and ambitious,” Fabien ‘Neo’ Devide, Vitality’s Co-founder and Executive President, told Dexerto in January.

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A group stage exit at IEM Katowice, the first LAN of 2022, following close series against Heroic and Gambit, laid bare the size of the challenge facing Vitality’s new team. But they fared even worse in their next outing, crashing out of ESL Pro League also in the group stage with a 2-3 record – the 0-2 thrashing against FaZe particularly painful as it showed just how wide the chasm between them and the elite was.

Communication remains one of the team’s biggest problems as the players are still coming to grips with the fact that they can no longer rely on their native language in high-pressure in-game situations. This often leads to messy rounds where players try to pull in different directions based on the type of Counter-Strike they are accustomed to.

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apEX has said that he is still trying to find his groove as an in-game leader, which requires him to find the right balance between his methodical, hands-on approach, and the Danish contingent’s loose style. “Of course you do, of course,” he said, laughing, when asked if analysts underestimate how hard it is to integrate new players and a new coach into a system.

João Ferreira for PGL
dupreeh has been one of the few bright spots in this new Vitality

This helps explain why it has been so difficult for apEX to get the best out of his players, especially ZywOo, whose general performance level remains far below that of the post-Major period, in which he made a case for the title of best player in the world. But not all is gloomy: dupreeh has rediscovered his old Astralis form, emerging as a true second star for the team.

Even though Vitality barely made it out of the RMR, there’s enough to suggest that the team is making strides in the right direction. The two matches that they lost were closely contested and could have gone their way had they not struggled in the closing stages. And they showed great resilience and character to complete the reverse sweep against MOUZ on Mirage, snapping a seven-game losing streak on this map.

But with little over two weeks left before the start of the Major, there are too many things that they need to work on before they can be called genuine title contenders. And there are still questions about whether they have enough firepower to get past the top teams, with Kévin ‘misutaaa’ Rabier averaging a worrying 0.88 HLTV rating on LAN in 2022.

For Vitality’s fans, ZywOo’s clutch performance on Dust2 provided a surprising measure of comfort. In Stockholm, the dire situation Vitality were in was the jolt he needed to go on a blistering run of form that led to one LAN title and another final appearance before the end of the year.

As they watched ZywOo pull Vitality out of trouble against MOUZ, their hope was that they were witnessing the start of something similar.