Counter-Strike: Global Offensive action is back on the menu, with competition returning after the winter break. The Funspark Ulti finals kick off the new competitive year, bringing eight teams together for a high-level tournament.
As the event marks the return of professional Counter-Strike, there is an air of uncertainty around it. We’d expect teams to continue performing as they did at the end of 2021, barring any roster changes, but this isn’t always the case. For some teams, a break is exactly what they needed to switch into next gear, while for others it will take time to shake off the holiday rust.
With that being said, we still see the bookmakers back the usual suspects. Gambit (EVEN) enters as the favorite following their explosive year, with Fnatic (+200) and Astralis (+350) close behind after ending 2021 in solid form.
Before we take a look at the details of the event, make sure to refresh your CS:GO basics with our Counter-Strike betting guide, and let’s dive right in.
Who’s Playing At The Funspark Ulti Finals?
We’ll see eight teams competing at the Funspark Ulti finals, four of which have been invited and four that earned their spot by placing well at tournaments throughout 2021. Topping the Funspark Ulti odds, Gambit headlines the event and is joined by fellow invitees Fnatic, Astralis and Entropiq.
Meanwhile, BIG and Extra Salt earned their spots by finishing first and second respectively at last year’s finals. And the event is rounded out by K23 and Ecstatic, the two teams that managed to gather the most ranking points through minor events played in 2021.
There is somewhat of a divide between teams at this tournament and we see a battle of huge favorites vs underdogs. Gambit, Astralis and Fnatic are among the biggest teams in the world, with Gambit even being ranked No. 1 at points last year.
BIG, K23 and Ecstatic are what are known as tier-2 teams in CS:GO. They’re not quite at the highest level, but they’re still very good and do have a shot at stealing away a game every now and then against the favorites. Last but not least we have Extra Salt. The team is a bit of a question mark, having made three roster moves in the last few months and not yet having played an official match with their current squad.
Moving on to the event itself, we see a fairly standard Counter-Strike tournament format being played out in a double-elimination playoff. Teams all start in the upper bracket of the playoff, facing off based on predetermined seeds. If a team loses once, it drops to the lower bracket while a second loss spells elimination and the last team standing takes home the trophy.
Odds as of January 18 at Bovada
How Has The Winter Break Affected Competitive Counter-Strike?
The start of the year is always an uncertain time in CS:GO. Teams are coming back from a lengthy break and, in some cases, with entirely new rosters. This means that the first few results are difficult to predict, with it being hard to tell how a team will perform having not played official matches for over a month.
There’s always some rust to shake off, but some teams thrive after a break while others suffer. The odds for Funspark Ulti currently point to things mostly staying the same, with Gambit entering as the favorite, Fnatic being a top pick based on previous form and Astralis being somewhat questionable due to recent roster changes.
Overall, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see the favorites perform as expected. After all, the best teams are the favorites for a reason – even with a small break, the players are some of the best in the world. However, with that being said, we could definitely see teams start slowly as they attempt to shake off some rust and the start of the tournament is the most likely spot for an upset, be it an underdog sneaking away a map or even an entire series.
Can Favored Gambit Continue Impressive Form?
Gambit expectedly enters the event as the favorite, being on paper the best team at the event, currently ranking No. 2 on HLTV’s world rankings. The team exploded onto the scene in 2021, rising from underdog status to one of the best in the world following multiple tournament wins, and have not slowed down since.
They’ll be aiming to continue their impressive form and start off 2022 with a bang and Funspark Ulti is the perfect tournament for just that. Gambit has recently had the better of its biggest rivals at the event, Fnatic and Astralis, including two convincing wins against the former to close out 2021.
There is the uncertainty of new year rust, but Gambit has always been a team that thrived with extra preparation time and kicked off their incredible run at the start of last year. All signs point to Gambit having a very strong shot at taking home the trophy.
Currently, bookmakers are offering EVEN odds on Gambit to win it, representing odds of 50 percent based on Odds Shark’s Super Calculator, and this looks to be a steal considering their 2021 form, the level of their players, and the other teams at the tournament.
Fnatic Looking For Revenge At Funspark Ulti
The other big team to watch at this event is Fnatic. After an unsteady 2021, the team came back strong in October, with their new UK-based roster going on one of the most impressive runs we’ve seen for some time.
Fnatic spent two months undefeated, winning 12 series in a row before finally being stopped at IEM Winter. Their run was halted by none other than Gambit, their main rival at Funspark Ulti.
Despite the winter break, Fnatic definitely hasn’t forgotten who put an end to their win streak and will be that much more motivated to get revenge. They’ve had all winter to plan out strategies specifically for defeating Gambit and the thought of getting sweet revenge will no doubt be in the back of their minds.
Overall, Fnatic has proven to be a very strong squad, based on their run, and this event looks to be not only a place to get revenge but also one that could shape the team’s entire year. If Fnatic manages to win here, they’ll have the confidence to take on the world, but anything less than a trophy might mean going back to the drawing board. Either way, they’re a great team to back to do well or even take a bit of a risk on them winning it all.