ESL One Cologne: Liquid v Vitality Grand Final Preview

It’s the final day of ESL One Cologne, and the emotions are about as mixed as they get. On one hand, we have to wait another twelve months to see CSGO played in the legendary arena, in front of this legendary crowd, and that is tragic. On the other hand, we’re just a few hours away from seeing the most talented team in the world, and the best North America has ever produced, go up against a French five that contains within it the future of European CSGO.

One interesting detail is the fact Liquid could secure the Intel Grand Slam, having taken wins at ESL Pro League finals, DreamHack Dallas, and IEM Sydney. That would be a footnote in terms of their work this year, but it would also be $1m to split between the group, and a sign of how consistently they have dominated 2019 to this point, as comfortably the best team.

In their way stands a phenom, ZywOo of course, and to be honest it looks as though the future of French CSGO is now for ESL One at least. The kid is barely believable at times, averaging some disgusting numbers in the series vs Astralis yesterday, and his team is improving every day. This is the final that has everything, including the potential for five maps, so let’s jump in and see what might transpire in the Cathedral of CSGO.

How did they get here?

Let’s start with the first semi-final of Saturday, or super Saturday as it would be called if this were the BBC showing an antiquated tennis event. To be honest, our Saturday was about as super as you can imagine, with the series between Vitality and Astralis something of an instant classic. Going into it, the likes of Dev1ce and Dupreeh had been tearing up the stats, with their team not losing a map and looking generally indomitable, but it was also the first time the two squads had faced off, so nobody really knew what to expect.

Sadly for the Danes, Dev1ce went -17 for the series, while Vitality had their monster right on form, as ZywOo dropped 75 kills across three maps at +23, with an average ADR of 81.8. It wasn’t all about AWP v AWP, as most of Astralis played below the level they would have hoped to reach, but in the end the BO3 that ended 2-1 to Vitality actually wasn’t as close as it looked on paper, and the Frenchmen were the better team. With the improvement Astralis have made of late, that is impressive, and sets this match up as a perfectly balanced tie, with nothing for the Europeans to fear.

As for Liquid, the basically just flexed on Natus Vincere in their semi-final after the earlier meeting between the two got a bit close. The 2-1 that Liquid achieved over Na’Vi, with THAT knife involved, will live in the memories for some time, but last night we got to see the real gap between the two teams as the NA mix went full beast mode and closed the door on s1mple and his gang.


In fairness to the GOAT, the people saying he was poor, or cost his team the series, are missing what was revealed in that match. The reality is that if he doesn’t play at a level we haven’t even seen from any other player (save maybe ZywOo…) then Na’Vi have no chance, which is embarrassing for an org of their size, and exposes why they desperately need more change than just removing Edward.

The fact they don’t have to face Astralis probably won’t bother them at this point, with that monkey already off their back, but Vitality might. The last four maps have all gone the way of the French, although those were all played at CS Summit, which is worlds apart from ESL in terms of atmosphere and pressure. An impressive note to end on might be the fact Liquid have only dropped a single map so far, to Na’Vi, so Vitality have to be at their very best.

What will decide it?

So, there is an argument to say that Liquid are perfectly placed to be the team to end Vitality’s dreams, based on their experiences in the event so far. Playing Na’Vi and s1mple twice will prepare any team for facing off against a ‘carried’ side, and while it’s not fair to apEX and co to say his team is the ZywOo show, it is very true that if you can stifle the sniper, you can blunt the Vitality edge.

What was also refreshing for TL fans vs Na’Vi in the semis was the fact that Twistzz showed up in a big way, dropping 31 kills on Dust 2 before NAF took the flame on Overpass, and if he can continue that then this series might be a wash. With the way ELiGE has played in the last few weeks, and Stewie’s proclivity for playmaking at crucial times, the world number ones should be comfortable favourites…

That’s the reality here, that Liquid should win, but Vitality should have lost to Astralis looking at all the data. It’s impossible to predict what the French ceiling is, and we will need to see them play maybe the best we’ve seen as a team if they want to win ESL One Cologne, and announce themselves as real Major contenders at the perfect time, just a month or so prior to Berlin. This is going to be epic.

Image: Starladder