The difference-makers: 11 players to watch during IEM CS:GO Rio Major 2022

You don’t want to miss their games.

Photo via Stephanie Lindgren and ESL

For more than 10 years, CS:GO pros have elevated the level of the game, constantly improving and setting the skill ceiling higher with every tournament. And on Oct. 31., IEM CS:GO Rio Major 2022 begins. The bar and the stakes are the highest they’ve ever been.

The Brazilian Major is shaping up to be one of the greatest in history, mostly due to the passionate home crowd, its love for the game, and the atmosphere it will create.

More importantly, however, the competition has never looked fiercer. If you have renowned squads like G2 Esports and Astralis missing the Major for the first time in the organizations’ history, you know the best squads have come to play in Rio de Janeiro.

Some teams are seen as potential favorites to lift the trophy. Most of them are expected to do so thanks to the incredible individual prowess of their players in recent months. Some of them are explosive entry fraggers, while others are intelligent lurkers or superstar AWPers. One thing is certain: it’s worth keeping an eye on them in the forthcoming event. 

With 24 teams set to take the stage in Rio de Janeiro, it’s tough to follow every game, let alone every player. Nevertheless, there are some you don’t want to miss in action for a few reasons.

11 players to watch at IEM CS:GO Rio Major 2022

YEKINDAR and EliGE

Photo via PGL

Team Liquid have been on the rise for the past couple of months, making deep runs in pivotal CS:GO tournaments and climbing the rankings of the best teams around the world. The most crucial elements behind their success have been Mareks “YEKINDAR” Gaļinskis and Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski. 

The former joined Liquid as a stand-in before IEM Cologne 2022 and has transformed Liquid’s gameplay ever since. He helped the team reconstruct their strategy, while also becoming the much-needed entry fragger. People in that role don’t usually boast eye-watering stats, since they’re often quickly traded. But YEKINDAR defies that rule, like in Liquid’s match against Cloud9 in ESL Pro League Season 16, where he topped the ladder with a 62-40 KD ratio, a win that secured Liquid playoffs, in which they went all the way to the finals. 

YEKINDAR’s addition also allowed EliGE to take new positions in a rifler role, which made him shine once again, proving he’s one of the best North American talents in history. The player has recorded 1.24 impact and 83.6 average damage in the past three months, according to HLTV, acting as the second pillar behind Liquid’s formidable successes. The formidable duo allowed Liquid to claim third in HLTV’s ranking for the first time since February 2020, and the team have once again become NA’s best hope at winning the biggest event, with their eyes set on the IEM CS:GO Major 2022.

ZywOo and Spinx

Liquid made the EPL Season 16 finals but were outplayed by another team rising in the scene lately, Team Vitality. A significant part of Vitality’s strength comes from two exceptional players, Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut and Lotan “Spinx” Giladi.

Vitality had a rough first half of 2022 when they couldn’t find their footing on the server, including the superstar AWPer, ZywOo. Still, the 21-year-old showcased brilliant form in their recent events and broke records, like most kills in a single CS:GO series by claiming 143 kills in finals against Liquid. The Frenchman proved he’s still one of the best players in the world.

You have to give credit where it’s due. Vitality’s only transfer in the recent break was bringing in Spinx, who like YEKINDAR, caused changes in the team’s roles, allowing other players to return to their top form. Spinx is one of the smartest players in the game, often shining in fantastic lurking or entry fragging, like against Liquid in the EPL Season 16 finals. Thanks to those shifts in strategy and Spinx’s individual prowess, Vitality claimed the trophy and rapidly transformed into one of the best squads in the world.

S1mple

Photo via PGL

When it comes to GOATs of CS:GO, there’s no more titled player than Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev.

The Ukrainian has won numerous tournaments, collected many MVP trophies, and as a result, claimed either first or second in HLTV’s best 20 rankings of the year for the past four years. In recent months, he hasn’t dipped in form at all, gathering 1.36 impact per round, 86.3 damage per round, 0.85 kill participation per round, and only 0.64 deaths per round in the past three months, according to HLTV

S1mple always shows up when it matters. In Natus Vincere’s countless finals finishes for the past few years, he has been the clutch factor, boasting incredible stats and winning many rounds on his own. He allowed NAVI to cement themselves as one of the best teams in CS:GO history, and in Rio, he’s certainly looking to continue his reign.

Broky

FaZe Clan’s lineup consists of superstars that can carry the game on their backs, and who also work perfectly together. In recent weeks, however, one stood up above the rest: Helvijs “broky” Saukants.

The Latvian was FaZe’s best player in the Europe RMR A, where the squad finished 3-0 and claimed the Legends Status at the Rio Major. Still, it was a hefty road for the international team, who had to play seven overtimes during five maps. In every series, broky stood out, winning pivotal rounds with his AWP. All in all, he finished as the event’s seventh-best player, according to HLTV. 

With the team looking shaky lately, broky has played to his 110 percent and secured important rounds for the team, like against Sprout in the RMR. His admirable patience and game sense may be the factor FaZe need to defend their title and go for the second Major in a row.

Fame

While Petr “fame” Bolyshev is one of the two new additions to Outsiders’ roster, he quickly became a significant player for the CIS side. 

The 19-year-old is fairly new to the top-tier CS:GO scene, so he’s often inconsistent in Outsiders’ recent tournaments. Still, when it’s needed, he can overcome the pressure and pull out a fantastic performance, allowing his squad to grab important maps or series. He was the Outsiders’ best player in a surprise victory over Heroic in Europe RMR B. Fame also finished as the best individual in the team’s triumph over ENCE in ESL Challenger Rotterdam 2022, where he boasted the most kills (42), according to HLTV. If Outsiders aim to pull a miracle run at the Rio Major, fame must bring his A game, and he has already shown he’s able to do so in essential matches.

AcoR

After his unsuccessful stint at MOUZ, it was tough to see a bright future for Frederik “acoR” Gyldstrand, who joined GamerLegion, a team that hardly plays at the top level. Still, he was the one that pulled the team through the Europe RMR A and stole a spot at the Rio Major. 

In the games against top-tier teams like FaZe and G2, acoR shone as GamerLegion’s best player on the server, recording a 105-72 KD ratio in the two games combined. Moreover, he often won tough clutches, proving he has what it takes to lead his team to “David vs Goliath” like upsets. If GamerLegion’s dream is to be continued in Brazil, they need acoR to keep the astonishing level he’s been on lately.

Hampus

Photo via PGL

The addition of Aleksi “Aleksib” Virolainen to Ninjas in Pyjamas released Hampus “hampus” Poser from IGL duties. As a result, the latter helped his team to secure a Legends Spot in the upcoming Major and finished the Europe RMR A as the best player of the event, with a 1.36 Rating 2.0, according to HLTV. It’s more than exciting to see what this fresh NIP roster is capable of with hampus back in the rifler role, who looks more comfortable than ever with his new tasks.

SunPayus

The new ENCE squad also comfortably secured a Legends Spot in the Major, with Alvaro “SunPayus” Garcia leading the scoreboard in two of three ENCE series in the RMR. The Spaniard was the star of his former team, Movistar Riders, and his aggressive and exceptional AWPing style booked him a place in ENCE. Still, can he deliver on his yet biggest stage and secure his team a back-to-back semifinals appearance? If SunPayus maintains his astounding level, it should be possible.

KSCERATO

Last but not least, let’s take a look at the noteworthy Brazilian players that will be competing on their home turf. When it comes to Brazil, there’s hardly a better individual today than Kaike “KSCERATO” Cerato. For FURIA, he has been the consistent element that always delivers. In the past six months, he boasted a 1.18 KD ratio, the highest from the whole squad, according to HLTV. If the home-crowd favorites aim high in Rio, they need KSCERATO to take the lead with his incredible rifling abilities.