Electronic Sports World Cup fall could mean end of an era for Ninjas in Pyjamas
As Counter-Strike: Global Offensive grew in popularity and competitive stature, one team stood above all others. And now, that team may be on the brink of finally breaking apart.
Sweden’s Ninjas in Pyjamas was the unquestioned class of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s early days. The squad put together a streak over 80 consecutive victories at one point, and were considered the world’s best team for the vast majority of a two-year stretch. During that time, they never finished outside the top four of any event they entered.
Starting this summer, things changed.
The change came gradually at first. A dip in online results preceded the team’s first finish outside of the top four at a live event when they tied for fifth at the ESEA final in June. The squad would show inconsistent results from there, but a resurgent run at ESL Cologne would provide them a major championship and possibly an answer to the questions that had been raised about the team.
But even that title came through a great struggle, as the team was on the brink of elimination in the group stage and then in each round of the playoffs before managing to escape victorious.
Whatever it was that allowed Ninjas in Pyjamas to pull through the tight challenges they faced in that event has seemingly dissipated.
As their online results continued to disappoint, resulting in a missed qualification for the finals of Faceit League’s second season, live results fell again dramatically when the team failed to emerge from the group stage at DreamHack’s Stockholm Invitational. A loss to LDLC was particularly bitter, as Ninjas in Pyjamas were blown out by a score of 16-3.
Following that disappointment, the team promised to find a new identity through intensive practice, with the goal being to show their newfound abilities at the Electronic Sports World Cup in Paris.
This did not quite go to plan.
The tournament quickly turned disastrous for the Swedes. The team finished fourth in their group, suffering losses to Hell Raisers, Titan, and Platinium. The loss to Titan was particularly gutting, as Ninjas in Pyjamas managed only one round to Titan’s 16. And the loss to Platinium served as Platinium’s only win of the tournament.
While questionable results for the side have always been met by conjecture from fans as to how the team might change as a result, this time has been different, as the team’s own players have joined in reacting to their early exit.
Star player Christopher “Get Right” Alesund took to social media to voice his frustration with the performance, and many fans read into his comment that change was to come.
Richard “Xizt” Landström, who has often served as the team’s captain, did the same. But while Alesund expressed a degree of defiance, Landström’s expression was one of despair.
Cant get worse then this, surely we deserve all the flame. Not sure where to go from here, this is emberrasing. Sorry to all NiP followers.— Richard Landström (@OfficialXizt) October 31, 2014
If change does come, it could arrive in a variety of forms.
Robin “Fifflaren” Johansson has long been criticized for his perceived poor play, even during better times for the team. Statistically, Johansson is by far the squad’s weakest player, and his removal from the roster would seem to make the most sense. As Johansson has at times taken Landström’s captaincy duties for the team, there is also a possibility that he could transition to a coaching role.
Adam Friberg has fallen under more recent criticism for his own perceived drop in play. Often charged with making the initial entry for Ninjas in Pyjamas, a slumping Friberg has the potential to have a significant impact on his team’s ability to execute their intended attacking strategies.
There is also the possibility of a complete roster overhaul, but given the pedigree of players like Alesund and Patrik “f0rest” Lindberg, this would seem unlikely.
The pool of top Swedish players available to join the team isn’t especially deep. Marcus “Delpan” Larsson’s prime came in Counter-Strike 1.6, but has shown flashes of strong play in Global Offensive as well. Mikail “Maikelele” Bill would seem to have the necessary talent, though chemistry issues may arise as Bill has a history of attitude and behavioral issues.
Simon “Twist” Eliasson and Andreas “Schneider” Lindberg are also possibilities, though all of this remains conjecture until Ninjas in Pyjamas announce their intentions with regards to the existing roster.
If a move is to be made, it will likely come soon in order to provide a potentially modified team with ample time to prepare for DreamHack Winter. The event will boast a prize pool of $250,000.
Screengrab via ESL/YouTube