In the lead up to IEM Cologne 2022, eight teams put up performances strong enough to earn a direct invite into the event's Group Stage, bypassing a strong Play-In Stage that eliminated the likes of MIBR and BIG Clan. Four of those teams were seeded into Group B: Team Liquid, Cloud9, FURIA Esports and FaZe Clan.

Although only two of those teams participated in games on the first day of competition, today we'll be taking a look at all four team's form leading up to the event, and the way their tournament looks to be shaping up after the opening round.

Logo for Team Liquid Team Liquid: Big Changes, Bigger Expectations

Following a string of lackluster results, Team Liquid made some substantial roster moves heading into IEM Cologne. The team first removed Richard "shox" Papillon and Eric "adreN" Hoag from the active roster, before bringing in Damian "daps" Steele as the new permanent coach. With one spot to fill and in desperate need of an entry fragger, the team sought out the best and acquired Mareks "YEKINDAR" Gaļinskis as a stand-in for the event. Now, with a line-up full of established names and some of the game's strongest developing talents, Liquid looks to reclaim the Cologne title, and raise the trophy they last held in 2019.

In their opening matchup, however, Team Liquid were unable to overcome a surging Team Spirit. After bringing in AWPer Ihor "w0nderful" Zhdanov in place of Abdulkhalik "degster" Gasanov, the team would make relatively quick work of the Play-In Stage with wins over Complexity Gaming and 00 Nation. They would carry this momentum into their game against the North Americans, playing them across Dust II, Overpass, and eventually Ancient, where Team Spirit would take the victory after a 22-20 marathon. Now, Team Liquid has minimal time to prepare before their Lower Bracket game on July 9th, where they will face either FaZe Clan or 00 Nation with elimination on the line.

Logo for Cloud9 Cloud9: A Summer of Opportunity

The sun is out, and Cloud9 is looking great. Following the acquisition of Konstantin "groove" Pikiner's roster from Gambit Esports. The team, led by Vladislav "nafany" Gorshkov, came off an underperformance at the PGL Antwerp Major into a long-awaited North American LAN at IEM Dallas. The team lost only a single game in the group stage before going on a tear through the event, defeating several top teams including FaZe Clan and ENCE en route to the championship.

Cloud9 were matched against a familiar opponent in the opening round of play, facing Dzhami "Jame" Ali ‘s Outsiders. They took down the squad with victories on Dust II and Ancient, locking them into the next round to face the winner of Astralis and FURIA Esports on July 8th. With a chance to claim their second IEM title in as many months, the Russian squad looks to recreate the summer of Cloud9 — and so far, it seems like they just might.

Logo for FURIA eSports FURIA: Finding Their Footing

Since their Quarterfinals run at the PGL Antwerp Major, FURIA has been hit by a wave of inconsistency. A Semifinals finish at IEM Dallas would be followed by a Roobet Cup performance that saw them lose twice to 9z Team, missing the playoffs altogether. Things would only get worse at DreamHack Valencia, where they were eliminated following losses to both Sprout and 00 Nation, exiting the event in last place. For FURIA, a strong showing in Cologne is necessary to get the roster back on the right track and gaining momentum with the IEM Rio Major on the horizon.

FURIA begin the event with a day off, as their opening game against Astralis is set to begin on July 8th. The Danes reached this point despite an early loss to 00 Nation in the Play-In Stage. Against the ropes of elimination, Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander's squad would beat out Complexity Gaming before taking BIG Clan through a close 2-1 series through Nuke and Dust II, before eventually winning 16-11 on Overpass to advance to the Group Stage. FURIA and Astralis may likely play the closest match-up of the opening round, and its result could be the deciding factor in whether either team advances through Group B to play on stage in the LANXESS Arena.

Logo for FaZe Clan FaZe Clan: Tipping Atop The Mountain

The current major champions came to Cologne off the back of several rocky performances, reaching the playoffs at IEM Dallas, BLAST: Spring Finals and the Roobet Cup yet failing to secure the title in any event. A win in Cologne would reaffirm FaZe's position as Counter-Strike's top team — however, with Na'Vi nipping at their heels in the HLTV World Rankings, a loss may knock them out of that position. A victory would also give the team a third point towards the IEM Grand Slam, extending their lead over Na'Vi and Cloud9 and putting them a single trophy away from the title.

FaZe Clan also began the competition with a rest day, being scheduled to compete in their opening matchup on July 8th. They will compete against Brazil's newly formed 00 Nation roster, playing under the leadership of Epitácio "TACO" de Melo. Despite being a fairly new team, the Brazillians have proved to be a threat: they began the tournament with a 16-6 victory over Astralis and, following a close 2-1 defeat at the hands of Team Spirit, took down their fellow countrymen Imperial Esports in 2-0 fashion. FaZe Clan will surely come into the game — and the tournament as a whole — as the favorites, but an underdog team like 00 Nation could be exactly the kind to pull off an upset against Counter-Strike's reigning kings.