ESL One Cologne: Last six preview

The weekend is coming, and there are massive games to be played. No, we don’t mean some sports day rubbish between Harry Kane and a bunch of Ikea staff, but the Counter Strike, from Cologne. While football has difficult conversations about how easy it is for despots and dictators to buy their way into the club and bring the game to their personal fiefdom, CSGO enjoys a spot in a wonderful arena, that has literally no slave blood mixed into the cement.

Due to the tournament format, some teams were able to achieve a bye into the last four. As an amusing aside, implications were made that they weren’t going all out to win their ‘bye’ game, which led to some experts on twitter questioning the format of the event. This just goes to show that being an expert is one thing, but being gullible never goes away, and players are still capable of selling the pundits a fake when they want to with the classic ‘wasn’t even trying’ move.

Waiting in the semi finals are the two best teams in the world, FaZe Clan and Astralis, and if you were to ask any expert the latter would be their pick to take the title. FaZe are a good team too, but have to carry a stand-in, and without their full line up there is little to no chance they can beat the Danes over a best of three or five, unless a couple of their stars step up, and Astralis don’t perform. We saw that at IEM Sydney, so we know it is possible, but not something you can count on for sure.

ESL One Cologne: Quarter-Final One

The winner of the first quarter final, between Na’Vi and Fnatic, will have the delightful task of trying to beat Astralis in the semi on Saturday. Interestingly, while neither can be considered on the Danish level, both teams can brag about advantages they have over Astralis, although the overall balance of power in the tie will still favour the Danes.

From a Na’Vi point of view, nobody on Astralis can match s1mple’s level of play, and honestly when he is on form, there is no player anywhere that can. Even a fully fit and on-form dev1ce can’t live with the Na’Vi star, and if the Danish sniper has one of his less stable matches due to the pressure he could be destroyed on the stage. That won’t win Na’Vi the game outright, but with momentum they would at least have a chance to unsettle the favourites.

For Fnatic, the problem is ability, but they can call upon a level of experience no other team remaining the event can. Between JW, flusha, Krimz and Xizt they have four of the oldest heads in the game, who have seen everything and are scared of nothing. Be it correcting an uppity pundit, beefing with a Brazilian or just stabbing people in smoke, JW has been at max-JW this week, and will want to get back to the level he enjoyed for so long.

ESL One Cologne: Quarter-Final Two

FaZe await the winner of BIG and G2 in the second semi-final, and if this was an event in Brazil or Poland then quarter final number two would be the match of the day. Fortunately, the fans in Germany love CSGO regardless of the number of home teams or players in the server, and they will turn up in their masses to see any game, which may work out well with G2 the clear favourites in this game.

Prior to the event, the G2 podcast saw kennyS and shox interviewed by the inimitable Carlos ‘Ocelote’ Rodríguez Santiago, CEO of G2 and all-around esports force of nature. Their stated aim for this event was to make the playoffs, which they have already achieved, but now they are here and only BIG stand in their way there may be a sense in the French camp that they have an opportunity to even win this event.

We say ‘only’ BIG, when Berlin International Gaming fans (to give them their full name) will point to their epic win over MIBR last night as proof that is an outdated view. Unfortunately, with the way the Brazilian team is playing right now, beating them has gone from proof of concept, to the first step on the road, in the same way a win over VP has gone from being a milestone to mandatory for most teams.

What works in G2’s favour is their tactical ability, and adaptability mid-game, with a number of impressive comebacks already under their belt at this event. With FaZe using a stand-in, but this not being the first event they’ve played with said stand-in, there is also the perfect opportunity to anti-strat the world number two and still exploit their lack of experience together, which would leave the European mix in an unlikely final vs probably Astralis, where anything can happen. They’ll probably still lose, but Ex6TenZ has shown his sleeve is chock full of tricks, and would probably love the chance to prove us wrong.

Whoever makes it to the final will have an experience they never forget, with the arean in Cologne something truly special, and for us it will most likely be Astralis that face FaZe on Sunday. In a best of five we’ve already seen Karrigan eke out a win over his old team mates, but if he faces them again that will become orders of magnitude harder, and the most likely result for us would be Astralis winning the final, 3-1. Enjoy it, whoever you watch, it’s bound to be epic.