The French are no strangers to revolution, in real life or in our own little corner of it. Now, Vitality (and to a lesser extent G2) are looking to start yet another, using tried and tested Gallic classics. No, I’m not talking about the guillotine. I’m talking about the AK-47 of NBK and the AWP of KennyS.
Say what you want about French Counter-Strike, it’s never out of the news for long. For the last couple of years it’s mostly been for negative reasons: opinion pieces bemoaning the fall of a once great scene, roster change after roster change, but they were always there one way or another.
Since the turn of the year, though, Vitality and G2 seem to have had a fire lit beneath them. Vitality have rocketed up the HLTV rankings, currently sitting fifth in the world. That puts them ahead of teams like Fnatic, Faze and MIBR. The fact that this team, minus one player, was ranked 45th as recently as November makes their success even more impressive. Moving up 40 places in a little over six months is absurd.
Better still, if Vitality continue on this path things are only likely to improve. They won their most recent lan and have already guaranteed a top eight finish in Dallas. Now, yes, cs_summit is a fairly unimportant tournament in the grand scheme of things but they still had to overcome both Liquid and ENCE to claim the trophy. The tournament may have been fairly laid back, but beating those two teams is no small feat.
G2’s rise has been more modest, but impressive nonetheless. In November last year, G2 were only just inside the top 30. Now they sit in 15th, and have impressive wins over Renegades and NRG under their belt at Dreamhack Dallas. They face Faze later today in a game that could go either way. When was the last time you could say that of G2 with any confidence?
It’s not just that Faze has had its own roster changes to deal with, either. G2 genuinely looks solid right now. If KennyS can maintain the sort of form he showed against Renegades on Inferno (27 kills 23 rounds), G2 could have the aristocrats of Faze running for the hills.
Vitality’s own quarter-final match seems them face surprise package Furia. The Brazilians have already defeated Fnatic and NRG, but you have to expect a Vitality win on the day. Experience is a vague term, but Vitality has it in spades, regardless. Furia are a match for Vitality on an individual basis, and therein lies the challenge, but the French team has more strategic depth.
The map selection process will be a fascinating one, though. Vitality has an excellent Nuke record, but Furia has an even better one (94%). Mirage is both team’s worst map, but it’s much worse for Vitality (52%) than Furia (67%) so the French aren’t likely to let that one come up. Overpass records are almost identical between the two teams, so that seems almost nailed on, but the other two picks? I still favour Vitality overall, but they need to be careful not to let their hard-earned confidence overflow into arrogance.
A rematch against Team Liquid awaits in the semi-final, and then, potentially, an all-French grand-final.
There’s a lot of CS to be played before that, of course, and G2 are not favourite in any of their remaining matches. They can beat Faze, but the bookies have them as heavy underdogs. An upset there puts them into the semis against ENCE. They have shown they can defeat the Finns, having taken a map from them when they met earlier in the tournament, but a single map wasn’t enough to win that best-of-three and it won’t be enough to win this one. Again, neither of these upsets would be earth-shatteringly unexpected but they are considered upsets for a reason.
An all-French final seems unlikely, then, but the fact that we can even seriously consider it speaks volumes about how far the two teams in question have progressed. Just six months ago, the idea of a French team winning anything would have been tres drole. We’re not quite back to the glory days of French teams contesting and winning majors either, but it’s not impossible that we reach them by the time Starladder roles into Berlin at the end of August.
So will heads roll? Will revolution lead to French forces striding across Europe once again? Personally, I think NBK would look quite dapper in a 19th century admiral’s hat, but French generals have never had much luck in Eastern Europe and Na’Vi aren’t likely to let Vitality change that easily.
Oh, and then there’s Astralis, of course. They might have something to say about it all.