IEM 2023 Tournament Retrospective: Vitality Emerge on Top

With IEM 2023 now behind us, we can finally take a look at the tournament as a whole. With the Vitality roster emerging victorious, we got a thoroughly deserving, if unexpected winner.

IEM Rio 2023

Vitality gets the W. Credit: ESLCS on Twitter

No One Expects Vitality

It has to be said that Vitality was something of an underdog of IEM Rio 2023. They’re a team with great individuals of course, but it hadn’t always translated to big wins. Sometimes, just having ZywOo to go kill isn’t enough.

That’s what was so remarkable about this run. Sure, ZywOo was the MVP of IEM Rio 2023, but he wasn’t the sole reason they won the tournament. Every player had their part to play. Spinx single-handedly carried them through the early tournament, apEX was entry-fragging like he was in EnVyUs once again, while veterans dupreeh and Magisk were playing as if they were in their early 20s.

With the Paris Major 2023 just a few weeks away, the team couldn’t have chosen a better time to hit form. It would be a hell of a homecoming, for ZywOo and apEX to lift the biggest prize in Counter-Strike in their home country. Playing like this, you wouldn’t bet against this Vitality CS:GO roster.

FaZe Down

There was nothing “FaZe up” about the performance of FaZe in IEM Rio 2023. It could be argued that they were unfortunate to face eventual winners Vitality in the Lower Bracket, but they can only beat who is in front of them. And on their day, this FaZe CS:GO team have shown they’re capable of beating anyone – it just wasn’t to be for them here.

They’ve had a multitude of demoralizing losses lately. Their Major RMR campaign was on the verge of ending in disaster, only qualifying by the skin of their teeth. When so little is going right for them, it’s difficult to tell what is exactly wrong with the FaZe CS:GO team. That only makes the problem so much harder to solve. One thing is for sure – they need to get themselves together fast for the final CS:GO Major. Coming in at the Challenger’s Stage, they’ve got a lot of CS:GO to play if they’re to go far in the competition.

FaZe can’t allow themselves to dwell on the IEM Rio 2023 results. Yes, it was bad. But in CS:GO, competitions come around fast, and the team has the chance to get back on track in Paris.

Rio Crowd Redemption

Much has been made of the Rio crowd. At its best, it’s arguably the best atmosphere in all of the competitive CS:GO scene. But after the 2022 Rio Major, there was talk that they only show up for Brazilian teams. There were early signs of that here, with cadiaN even making himself the pantomime villain after dumping fan favorites FURIA from the event. It was bad enough that the official Heroic Twitter account dubbed the host arena, the “Jeunesse Library.”

Along came the IEM Rio 2023 Grand Final. Heroic vs Vitality – two teams with no connection to the local fans. To their credit, they actually showed up, creating an amazing atmosphere for some amazing Counter-Strike. There’s perhaps still a way to go, but it was a far cry from some of the unfair criticisms launched at the Brazilian crowd throughout the tournament.

It was nice to see the Rio crowd get some redemption right at the death, and hopefully, it continues when competitive CS:GO next returns to Rio de Janeiro.

A Promising NAVI Future

IEM Rio 2023 saw further signs of a NAVI resurgence. It wasn’t a perfect run for the team, who were dismantled by Heroic in the Semi-Finals, but it’s another deep run that the team can take a lot of positives away from.

The biggest sign of promise is electroNic’s form in the IGL role. Ever since he took over in the Boombl4 role, he hasn’t looked quite the same player. In Rio, things were different, and his numbers looked as strong as ever. It’s a big if – but if he can keep it up, NAVI might just be back.

Another problem area for NAVI has been npl, but at IEM Rio 2023 he again showed everyone he can certainly hang with Tier-1 players. He’s not the finished product yet, but what 17-year-old player is? He finishes the tournament with more great experience in front of a huge crowd, as well as some great highlights for his own personal reel. We’ll be watching his progress with great interest in the coming months.