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Stories to Watch at the IEM Cologne Playoffs 2022

Zakaria Almughrabi

The IEM Cologne Playoffs begin on July 15th. After a chaotic Group Stage, only six teams remain in the hunt for one of CS:GO’s most prestigious trophies. A $400,000 first place prize is also on the line at the famous LANXESS Arena this weekend. Which team has what it takes to go all the way?

IEM Cologne Playoffs s1mple

S1mple has been phenomenal at IEM Cologne so far. Can the rest of NAVI match his level? (Image Copyright: ESL | Helena Kristiansson)

Who’s Playing in the IEM Cologne Playoffs?

IEM Cologne Playoff Participants

Natus Vincere Astralis MOUZ
FaZe Clan Movistar Riders Team Liquid

After successfully topping Groups A and B respectively, Natus Vincere and FaZe Clan are heavy favorites to advance to the Grand Finals for a rank one versus two grudge match for the title. While the quarterfinals are difficult to predict this time around, the Group A underdogs of Movistar Riders and MOUZ were very impressive last week.


FaZe Flawless Through Three

FaZe Clan has been back to their winning ways so far at IEM Cologne. The international roster is 6-0 in their three matches so far with a round differential of +25. Their wins come over 00 Nation, Team Spirit, and Astralis. All three of these teams have been on the rise recently, yet FaZe was able to deal with them comfortably.

FaZe has the second highest team rating through the Group Stage at 1.11, just 0.02 behind Natus Vincere. We’ve seen all but one member put up at least one 1.40+ rating map (the exception is Robin “ropz” Kool who has a 1.39), so the team is operating on all cylinders. Everything is lining up for FaZe like it did at PGL Major Antwerp. If they come into playoffs at this level, FaZe have a great shot at sweeping the IEM championships this year.


S1mple in Form, Can NAVI Follow Suit?

NAVI’s run so far at IEM Cologne has been defined by the GOAT himself. Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev has been the best player at the tournament and it’s not even close. His 1.37 rating over eight maps is far ahead of second place, but the difference is present in the server as well as the stat sheet. S1mple is a human highlight reel, pulling off impossible rounds that no one else can. This clip features one of the best plays of the year and shows the sheer terror that s1mple strikes into his opponents.

While having the best player in the world on your team is certainly a great win condition, the rest of NAVI needs to step up to support s1mple when he gets targeted in the game plan. NAVI has lost two maps in their three matches, one to MOUZ and one to Movistar Riders. In both of those maps, s1mple has had just one teammate earn a positive K-D ratio (a +1 from Denis “electroNic” Sharipov) and no ratings above 1.0.

If NAVI want to win this championship, the rest of the team needs to be able to step up. This problem has always been NAVI’s kryptonite. CS:GO is a team game, and without a team, s1mple is left holding the world on his shoulders alone. Will he end up getting the help he needs to hoist the IEM Cologne trophy?


Movistar Riders Move Up the Standings

Group A was easily the more stacked side of the Group Stage with powerhouses like NAVI, Heroic, G2 Esports, Team Vitality, and ENCE. That’s why it was such a surprise when the all-Spanish Movistar Riders squad managed to make the group finals. Just to get to this point, they had to beat Vitality in the Play-Ins. They then swept G2, beat Vitality again, and even took a map off of NAVI. While the Riders couldn’t best the group favorite, they did earn second seed and a playoff berth.

Leading the fragging for Movistar are AWPer Alvaro “SunPayus” Garcia and Alejandro “mopoz” Fernández-Quejo Cano. SunPayus has been one of the best AWPers at the event, only being below s1mple and Dmitry “sh1ro” Sokolov in rating at 1.16. Mopoz is not far behind as an entry fragger with a 1.14. If they can keep performing at this level, then the Movistar Riders are not to be underestimated.


MOUZ Make the Big Stage

The other team to take a round off of NAVI in the Group Stage was MOUZ. The international squad had the misfortune of facing the group favorites in round one, but fought back through the lower bracket to secure the third and final playoff spot. Much like Movistar, MOUZ’s wins all come over powerhouse teams as well. Heroic, Vitality, and Ninjas in Pyjamas all fell to one of the group’s weakest teams on paper.

We’ve seen multiple looks from MOUZ in their wins. They have players like Ádám ‘torzsi” Torzsás and Jon “JDC” de Castro who can pop off and take over a game. They also have had phenomenal team performances with three to four players above a 1.05 rating. Another advantage MOUZ have is that they play maps that other teams don’t focus on, but can’t ban over their permas. MOUZ have picked Vertigo and Nuke in the vast majority of their matches here. Any ill-prepared teams will have a very difficult time dealing with MOUZ.

The IEM Cologne Playoffs begin on July 15th at 9:30 AM EDT. The initial matchups are:

Astralis vs MOUZ

Movistar Riders vs Team Liquid