Here's our tribute to NAVI.
Natus Vincere, the defending major winners in PGL Major Stockholm 2021, haven't been looking well in the recent months. That's reasonable considering that the Ukrainian organisation and players Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev and Valerii "b1t" Vakhovskyi have had a lot to deal with while the crisis in their own country continues.
Despite their struggles in the ESL Pro League and IEM Katowice, Na'Vi qualified as Legends with only one small hiccup when they were defeated by Heroic. Despite not training on the server beforehand, s1mple was dominating right and left and seems to be back on his original form like a beast.
Let’s take a look at how NAVI is performing at the PGL Major Antwerp 2022.
Concerns for NAVI
Since the crisis the team seemed to have lost cohesion. This was understandable and expected given the situation in the world. So what’s the current situation for NAVI? Well:
- Attempting to retain their Major championship title
- Disappointing ESL Pro League finish
- Dethroned as the world's No. 1 squad by FaZe Clan.
- They got out of the European RMR A at 4th place, just enough for the team to directly seeded into Legends stage.
NAVI was able to defeat Vitality and clinch their position at the Major. What began as a what might be called a derby of the round between Natus Vincere and Vitality Inferno finished on Mirage, when Team Vitality recovered their composure and fought toe-to-toe with NAVI. Natus Vincere won 16-13, with Aleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev leading the way with 34 kills.
s1mple and company had a chance to secure one of the remaining two Legends seats available in the A group, either automatically if they finished as the highest-seeded team from the 3-1 pool, but instead they had to defeat Forze in a tiebreaker since other teams were also highly successful.
NAVI starts to shine in Legends Stage
Natus Vincere faced G2 on Mirage in what was perhaps the most high-profile match of the first round. After a set of overtime, Aleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev's side won with a 19-17 score. Natus Vincere got off to a better start in their game, with s1mple opening with an aggressive assault in the pistol round and Kirill "Boombl4" Mikhailov finishing the round with a knife kill.
The fight rapidly devolved into a bloody melee, with G2 winning a round with pistols to get the upper hand and swiftly take a 4-3 lead.
Throughout the first half, the teams traded rounds, with G2 emerging with a slim 8-7 advantage.
Once in overtime, Natus Vincere gained control of the game with two rounds on their T side, one of which was a 3v5 round won by s1mple and Ilya "Perfecto" Zalutskiy's superb positioning. They maintained their momentum when the teams swapped and won the game 19-17.
And then NAVI moved on a comfortable second win against BIG, besting them 16-8.
Then came their third match against NIP.
Natus Vincere secured second place in the PGL Major Antwerp bracket stage with a 2-1 victory over NIP. The Swedes held their own on Mirage, but otherwise it was a display of dominance from the Kirill "Boombl4" Mikhailov-led team, who had previously won Inferno 16-6 and the deciding Ancient 16-4. On Inferno, NAVI sent a strong message to NIP, knocking back their executions again to go up 9-1, thanks to some fantastic clutching from Ilya "Perfecto" Zalutskiy in the early rounds.
If NIP's resiliency on Mirage led you to believe a competitive finish was on the way, you'd be mistaken. s1mple and company dominated NIP on the CT side on the last map, with the only round going the Swedes way out of the first nine being a 1v4 clutch from Brollan, and even then, the Russian-Ukrainian team swiftly got back on their feet to drag it over the finish line without too much problem.
And they managed to clinch the second spot in the playoffs alongside Team Spirit with a 3-0 score, having never been defeated once.
Can NAVI win the PGL Major Antwerp 2022?
Natus Vincere, the organisation's first-ever Major champions after a historic unbeaten run in last year's edition of the Valve-sanctioned competition, have found themselves in a bit of a problem to begin 2022. Aleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev's team hasn't quite recovered the rhythm they had in the second half of 2021, when they won gold in practically every event they competed in.
The team dropped from No. 1 after placing 3rd-4th at IEM Katowice and a dismal 5th-8th place finish in the EPL, both of which FaZe claimed victory. Now that it's certain they will face the faze in Champions Stage, and looking at the scores they are seemingly doing better than their nemesis with a 3-0 against Faze's 3-1.
Despite their early dip, Natus Vincere remains a tournament favourite, and you can never count out on s1mple and the rest of his squad, especially when the stakes are high and they need to prove themselves against new favourites FaZe at Antwerp.
If the squad can psychologically detach themselves from the extraneous circumstances while in the arena and revert to their stifling form from 2021, this is a team that can definitely go for the championship title, and with the conclusion of tomorrow's Legends Stage matches Navi’s opponents in the quarter-finals will be finalised, and their struggle towards the championship title will begin.