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Fnatic Advance to Grand Finals at ESL Pro League

Zakaria Almughrabi

ESL Pro League’s 11th season is reaching its peak. Stage 2 was full of the best teams that Counter-Strike have to offer. Five straight days of matches have concluded, leaving three teams left to fight for the crown.

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Fnatic have beaten mousesports in a rematch of the Season 10 Grand Finals. (Photo courtesy HLTV)

Fnatic Fly High

Fnatic came in to Stage 2 as a decider match team. They failed to top Group B, as Na’Vi defeated them soundly on the last day of Stage 1. The Swedes had something to prove, and prove it they would. Their first match saw Fnatic drop the first map to FaZe Clan 16-8, then put up two fairly dominant maps of their own to take the series. FaZe was also a decider match team, so a close match was expected.

The next test for Fnatic was a much bigger one in Astralis. The match played out very normally with Fnatic winning their Dust2 pick 16-13 and Astralis taking Nuke 16-11. The tiebreaker was Inferno, and it went down to the wire. Fnatic had a 9-6 lead at the half then won five of the first six on their T side to hit 14 rounds. Astralis then pulled back seven rounds while Fnatic could only find one. At 15-14, overtime looked inevitable, but Fnatic pulled off one final strike to secure the map and series.

With a 2-0 record, Fnatic were primed to stay undefeated against a winless OG. Map one enhanced that prospect as Fnatic took OG’s Inferno pick 16-12. However, OG managed to pull back the series on Mirage after taking the map to overtime then winning four in a row. On the Dust2 tiebreaker, OG’s T side was too strong for Fnatic to handle. The upset was completed and Fnatic fell to a 2-1 record.

Angered by the loss, Fnatic would take their anger out on an unexpecting mousesports squad in match four. After a 16-13 on Inferno and a 16-7 roll on Nuke, Fnatic were back to the top of the group standings. Only one team stood in their way of first seed, Na’Vi. The previous matchup was a 2-0 sweep for Na’Vi, but this time would be different. Fnatic turned around and 2-0’d Na’Vi playing the same maps that they did against mousesports with nearly identical scores. With a 4-1 record, Fnatic have earned a direct pass to Grand Finals.

Astralis Bounce Back

Astralis was an interesting story throughout Stage 2. Their journey started out very rough as they took 2-1 losses to both Na’Vi and Fnatic early. The Danish squad just couldn’t close out their matches. That would all change in from match three onwards. Against FaZe Clan, Astralis managed to steal FaZe’s Nuke pick with a clutch 19-17 overtime victory. They then stomped FaZe 16-4 on their own Overpass pick to secure the 2-0.

The next match against OG was just as dominant. A 16-8 win on Dust2 was followed by a 16-10 on Overpass. Astralis now owned a 2-2 record. However, Fnatic and Na’Vi had 3-1 records and the tiebreaker over them. Astralis had only one road to playoffs: defeating mousesports on day five.

What was expected to be a three-map nail biting series very quickly turned into an affair that mirrored matchmaking. Astralis dismantled mousesports on Inferno 16-3. That was at least Astralis’s map, but things only got worse on mousesports’ home turf of Dust2. Only one round separated Astralis from a perfect 16-0, capping off the most dominant performance throughout all of ESL Pro League Season 11. Astralis had earned second seed via tiebreakers.

Mousesports Barely Pass

Mousesports’ journey through Stage 2 could be described as the opposite of the Astralis’ story. Their first two matches were against OG and FaZe Clan, two teams who finished 1-4 in the group. Mousesports came out of the OG match unscathed while FaZe Clan managed to take a map. With a 2-0 start, mousesports were ready to get into the difficult matches.

Their first test would be against the team who recently took their number one rank, Na’Vi. While a close match was expected, mousesports had other plans. They surprise picked Nuke, which they don’t do often. It worked out for a 16-11 win, giving mousesports the advantage going into the second map. Dust2 is also a comfortable map for mousesports, and they showed it with an equally comfortable 16-9 win to complete the sweep.

As the final undefeated team in the group at 3-0, mousesports looked like a guaranteed playoffs team. However, that would soon prove to not be the case after the three other competitive teams took wins on day four. Mousesports’ loss to Fnatic also lost them a crucial tiebreaker which could have proved fatal.

The final match saw mousesports get trounced by Astralis, leaving their advancement up to the other big match in the group. Mousesports had the tiebreaker over Na’Vi, so a win by Fnatic would squeeze mousesports through to playoffs. Luckily for them, Fnatic earned the victory to give mousesports a chance to defend their ESL Pro League title.

Only three teams are left at ESL Pro League’s European side. After a one-day break, Astralis and mousesports will once again do battle on April 11th. Their previous match was an absolute wash, so mousesports need to go back to the drawing board fast. The winner will face Fnatic on the 12th for the title. Anything could happen in these final two days.