NAVI, ENCE favored in PGL Major Antwerp Playoffs openers

Filtration process complete. From twenty-four, we went down to sixteen teams and then eight. Playoffs are afoot at the Antwerps Sportpaleis venue in front of a live audience. The PGL Major Antwerp Champions Stage features a single-elimination bracket, and all matches, including the grand finals, will be best-of-three series. The winner of the PGL Antwerp Major, the first of 2022, will be decided on May 22.

Before we get there, we have four opening duels, two of which, are featured below. The other two are: Spirit vs FURIA and FaZe Clan vs Ninjas in Pyjamas.

ENCE vs Copenhagen Flames

By finishing in the top eight of the Legends Stage, both ENCE and Copenhagen Flames will square off in the quarterfinals at the Champions Stage. ENCE finished third in the Legends Stage with a 3-1 record, only behind Team Sprit and Natus Vincere. Copenhagen Flames finished sixth only because they lost one game more than ENCE, eventually finishing with a 3-2 record. It merely reiterates the competitive nature of the tournament where one loss could be a difference between qualifying and being knocked out.

Why is everyone wary Of ENCE?

It is not without reason that they’re ranked third-best in the world according to HLTV. They came in as favourites and have done little wrong to dispel that notion. They’re a team that has been hard to outfox because they’ve drawn up a consistency pattern that has been hard to crack, while simultaneously coming up with different plans for different opponents.

In the Legends Stage, ENCE bounced back from a 16-14 loss on Overpass to beat Heroic 16-12 on Mirage, and then to top that up ended up winning on Nuke as well with a 16-6 scoreline. Poland’s Pawel “dycha” Dycha was their best performer, racking up 68 kills overall.

ENCE have beaten FaZe, the team that beat them in the final of the ESL Pro League 15. Coming into this game, there was already an extra edge to the contest and they took revenge by securing a 16-8 triumph on Mirage. Clearly the hurt of missing out on two titles back to back is evident. They now want to be third-time lucky. Their form and experience makes them the favourites – both of fans and punters – for this game.

Flames way is proving doubters wrong

They weren’t even expected to get this far, but they have. They upset Ninjas in Pyjamas to qualify for the Major. A 3-0 record through the Swiss stage, got them a direct Legends spot – meaning, they were able to bypass the Challenger stage – to pit themselves against the bigger teams like Heroic, FURIA, FaZe Clan, Natus Vincere and Players.

They were terrific at the Majors in Sweden last year, but did not make the playoffs. This time, they have been unstoppable. Having finished the RMR tournament unbeaten and having gotten this far.

This team is on a mission. They can smell the toffee now, but being able to eat it is an entirely different matter. This will be another massive challenge for them, and they cannot be written off.

Heroic vs Natus Vincere

We are intimetly familiar with both squads. NaVi is an absolute favorite in any match they play, but Heroic have proven time and time again they cannot be taken lightly.

Heroic just about managed to scrape through this far, after finishing seventh in the Legends stage with a 3-2 record. Natus Vincere were second with a 3-0 sweep, marginally behind leaders Team Spirit. So on current form, wholeheartedly pick Natus Vincere as your choice of favourites to earn returns on your punt.

It is one thing being able to challenge the might of NaVi, completely another winning. No one understands this more than Heroic. So they have their task cut out. Spirit coming out of nowhere to takedown top teams was a surprise. NaVi doing the same wasn’t. The defending champions have been true to their form and reputation, and if they play the way they have so far in the competition, it’ll take something out of the world to stop them from winning the title again.

Heroic hope to repeat past success

Ahead of the Major, if you’d said Heroic won’t make it this far, you would’ve been touted a joker. Because over time, they have become a consistent outfit – a top-five team. They reinforced this at the RMR A where they went 3-0, by taking a 2-1 win over Natus Vincere to cap off the event. That is reason enough for the favorites to not write their opponents off here. Whichever way the game goes, it’s sure to be a classic.

Nikhil Kalro

[Staff Writer] With an interest in strategy and mathematics, applying that to sports writing was the natural progression. A writer at night and the founder of a gaming company, Nikhil’s previous experience includes working with ESPN for five years. His specialization includes soccer, tennis and esports betting.

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