The final week of IEM Katowice 2019 is almost upon us and we already know the potential match-ups all the way to the final. After Swiss, Elo and the rest, we have finally arrived at a single-elimination, easy-to-understand format, where the winner survives and the loser flies home, and to be honest that is pretty much how it should be, as the introduction of loser’s bracket can devalue some of the non-knockout games.
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There are a few gripes we have with the system, chief among which is the fact that the final of the biggest event in the CSGO calendar can apparently only stretch to a best-of three, rather than a bo5 at the very least. The other slight issue can probably be seen in the pick 'em stats, where outside of two teams there appear to be very few real contenders for the title. Astralis and Liquid are the best, so what will become of the rest, and do they have any realistic chance of making the final day?
If you look at the draw, it seems as though FaZe are going to have to fight for every single round if they want to make an impact on the last week. Their first match is against Team s1mple, as Na’Vi should be called at this point, and looks like it could be too much for the Galacticos of CSGO already, but if they make it through there they face Team Liquid.
The NA squad can match FaZe for talent, if not out-do them, and seem to have steeled themselves, meaning top four is all the superteam can really expect to achieve if they do their current best. ESL One New York FaZe would be a different story, but that team is just a memory.
Memes aside, the Finnish squad have to be among the happiest top eight competitors a CSGO Major has seen in many a year, except when it comes to the outside. Typically and stubbornly stoic in the face of victory, the best Aleksib could manage to express his delight was a ‘holy shit’ in his post-game interview, and that probably sums up the gap between expectations and achievement that ENCE have created.
Now though, they face Team Liquid, and not just any Team Liquid either. This is a TL with the same level of skill as last year, or maybe more, and the added steel that comes with Stewie2k. When you consider the young American also has Major-winning experience under his belt, ENCE will do well to take a map off Liquid, but if they can somehow beat the NA mix a run to Grands is not out of the question. It’s just a monumental if.
As much as it seems like the time to write Na’Vi off, they do have a few things that mean you can never really do that, unless it’s the Grand Final. If the CIS mix make it that far, the chances are they will be facing Astralis, and in that tie there seems to be only one winner due to the complexity of the Danish system, and their ability to neutralise s1mple to a large degree.
Their first match against FaZe Clan is one that could go either way, and one that has the potential to burn all the barns from here to Bydgoszcz, but a betting man would probably steer clear for how unpredictable it looks. FaZe should lose based on form to this point, meaning Na’Vi will come up against Team Liquid, a team they have been 2-0’d by twice recently, including once at IEM Katowice itself, meaning top four is probably their ceiling, and realistic expectation with FaZe faltering.
Like ENCE, RNG have been predicted to lose many of the matches they’ve already played, and like the Finns they’ve basically confounded and exceeded all expectations by making it this far. ENCE, NiP and FaZe Clan were all swept aside in week two, with only world champions Astralis able to take a game off the Oceanic mix, and their confidence in week three is going to be at peak levels as a result.
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Their reward for all the hard work is an extremely winnable match against MIBR, a team that hasn’t really faced many good sides to this point and one that has shown clear and obvious weaknesses. The dynamic AWP play of Gratisfaction is going to be a problem for FalleN, but probably less-so for dev1ce if RNG beat the Brazilians and meet Astralis in the semis. Having said that, top four would be a genuine win for RNG, OCE CSGO and the game worldwide, and it’s very possible at this point.
Sometimes, you want to believe something so badly you’ll end up hurting yourself rather than admit it’s not true. A good example of that would be Ocelote at G2 esports, and his constant proclamations that the shox/kennyS axis will come good ‘soon’, and we think this MIBR team could be another example. Getting the old band back together is great if you’re the Blues Brothers, but some of the Brazilian band have forgotten the notes, where Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy still practiced between shifts as a chef.
It sounds weird to say, but if MIBR beat Renegades they can consider that a real step in the right direction, as it was clear from the last few months that they had no future as a world leader in their previous form. Anything more is frankly unrealistic, but with fer and to some extent FalleN not on form top four is a great result for MIBR, who have a lot of work ahead of them to get back to that position more consistently.
Ninjas in Pyjamas
Last, and potentially least in this list is the first truly great team in CSGO history. While Major winners have come and gone since NiP went 87-0, their mark still stands as one of the highest ever made in competitive esports, making their elation when they qualified for top eight even more inspiring with context attached. Having said all of that, many moons have waxed and waned since NiP were the best, and time waits for no man, even if they are called f0rest.
The one thing in NiP’s favour is that they will have no nerves when facing Astralis, despite the fact the Danes are clear favourites, as there is nothing to phase the likes of GeT_RiGhT left in CSGO. Sadly for the Swedes, there is still a big talent disparity, but this is far from as one-sided as it looks. Like Renegades, one good result could end up being a catalyst, but their biggest test comes in round one of the top eight.
Main picture: Copyright ESL | Helena-Kristiansson
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