For the past two years, FACEIT has hosted the LAN finals of their tier one online league, ECS, in Wembley Arena for thousands of adoring fans and this weekend will be no different. After two months of online play, four teams from both Europe and North America are going to be playing in the tournament at Wembley. This fifth season, the third of which to be hosted in London, will be the stage on which eight of the best teams from across Europe and North America battle it out to win their stake of a $660,000 (roughly £491,000) prize pool. The following article is ENUK’s pre-event summary which will delve into some of the detail about the ECS finals with exclusive interviews from the likes of: Astralis’ latest addition, Magisk; Team Liquid’s IGL and AWPer, Nitr0; Fnatic’s Xizt and NRG’s nahtE.
This American line-up is seen as one of the favourites to proceed out of the group stage and into playoffs alongside but not in front of the Danish squad, Astralis. To progress out of groups however, the American roster will have to beat two Major winning teams, one of which being their NA rivals Cloud9. Despite this, Team Liquid’s odds are favourable in the possible group stage matchups due to their all-star NA roster and recent success at a variety of tier one LANs. Although Team Liquid’s promising results in IEM Katowice and a recent second place result in Dallas show positive signs, they were somewhat overshadowed by an upset loss to another NA squad - NRG. Proving themselves at the ECS finals will be important to Team Liquid. However, despite seeing Liquid as the, “most skilled team in North America”, Nicholas "nitr0" Cannella claimed the roster will, “keep working on their mistakes”, and, “hope to play NRG in the playoffs.”
One of the fan favourites, Cloud9, are entering the competition in what cannot be described as anything but an absolute killer group. Accompanied by the aforementioned Team Liquid, Fnatic and Astralis, the future doesn’t look easy for the NA side. However, with years of professional LAN experience under the players’ belts and with a Major title to boast, Cloud9 definitely can’t be underrated. One thing to note coming into the ECS Finals is that Cloud9 actually sent their main rivals Team Liquid packing in an elimination match at the ECS S4 Finals in Cancun. Will history repeat itself or will Team Liquid return the favour?
Prior to the recent Starseries I-League S5 result, where NRG finally turned up and showed signs of life, many would have written off NRG going into ECS in a group with FaZe and G2. Since then however, thanks to a top two finish, the squad is looking more like serious contenders. Esports News UK discussed with NRG’s Ethan "nahtE" Arnold his expectations and how far he thought his team would progress through the finals here in London. The young star claimed how he had mixed feelings on the matter. Whilst on the one hand he explained the daunting task of potentially playing against Faze and how they often play in somewhat of a “puggy” manner, on the other he said the momentum of NRG’s recent performance in Ukraine may elevate them to the level required to make the playoffs.
Whilst no team present at the ECS S5 Finals can be written off, some definitely look stronger than others and Luminosity are on the bottom end of that scale. Although the team had a solid ECS qualifying stage, ending with the same win loss ratio as Team Liquid, they recently got knocked out of Dreamhack Austin without winning a single map. That sort of result, especially against the tier of competition at an event such as Dreamhack Austin, doesn’t stand the Brazilian line-up in good stead in the run up to ECS, so all eyes will be on Lucas "steel" Lopes and co. to see whether the team can perform. Another storyline to be aware of is that Steel’s former team, Team Liquid, is in the opposing group; meaning the two parties may end up running into each other.
The clear favourite for the event in London is Astralis. Ranked number one for seven consecutive weeks on the HLTV world rankings, any opponent is going to find it hard to beat this Danish team. Coming into the tournament having won two and placing second in their last three events, cashing in nearly $400,000 in the process, Astralis are entering the arena with a lot of momentum behind them. “I hope we will meet them in the final," said Astralis' latest addition, Emil "Magisk" Reif when asked if he'd like to face FaZe Clan in the final. "It’s always a good match up against them and I think we have a good idea after playing them a few times now, that we know how we want to play against them and how we want to make our game plan.”
One of Astralis’ biggest rivals, FaZe Clan, is also present and was seen as a big threat to Astralis until it was discovered that the team would be playing with a stand-in, the Norwegian Jørgen "cromen" Robertsen, due to Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer Gustafsson missing the event for unknown reasons. Since the revelations, FaZe Clan are viewed by most as less of a threat, but make no mistake the FaZe roster is still a fierce one. With the likes of Håvard "rain" Nygaard , Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács and Nikola "NiKo" Kovač on the roster, all of which were in the HLTV’s top 10 players of 2017, FaZe cannot be slept on and are therefore expected to make it out of groups.
The Swedish giants have been involved in esports for over a decade now and their latest member, Richard "Xizt" Landström, joined and left the organisation in 2010 and 2012 respectively; back when the organisation fielded a CS 1.6 team. Esports News UK sat down with Xizt ahead of the ECS Finals and asked what his expectations were for the team going into the tournament with such little time to prepare. Xizt claimed that ECS was, “Going to be tough”, but that the team were practising as much as possible and that he felt both Fnatic’s and his own recent victories at tournaments such as WESG, Katowice and IEM Sydney are acting like, “a confidence booster”, within the team.
A last-minute roster change saw two players joining the G2 roster and one player, Richard "shox" Papillon, return to its active line-up. The rumoured transfer, which saw Dan "apEX" Madesclaire and Nathan "NBK-" Schmitt move onto the organisation’s bench, was teased for weeks if not months prior to the event but came as a shock due to its somewhat last-minute announcement. The seemingly rushed nature of the move calls into question what sort of result the French line-up can achieve with such a lack of preparation however with stars like Shox and Kenny "kennyS" Schrub on the line-up, an upset win cannot be ruled out.
Only time will tell who will triumph at the ECS Finals at Wembley but what is certain is that it will be an absolute spectacle. The online stream is free to watch over on FACEIT’s Youtube channel, or if you’d prefer to watch live in the prestigious Wembley arena then tickets are still available for the 9th and 10th over on the ECS website.