Stories to Watch at IEM Cologne: Playoffs Edition
The IEM Cologne Playoffs are set to begin on July 16th. The 24 teams who entered have been narrowed down to just six. A $1,000,000 prize pool, a bevy of ESL and BLAST circuit points, and an all-important Intel Grand Slam point are on the line as these teams compete in the biggest CS:GO tournament of the year. While a majority of results so far have been expected, there have been a few surprises making for an interesting bracket.
There Can Be Only One
The two most dominant teams throughout 2021 up to this point have been Gambit Esports and Na’Vi. These two CIS squads have shown the most potential and highest ceilings of any CS:GO roster currently assembled. Both teams have unsurprisingly made it to the IEM Cologne playoffs, although Gambit did slip up in their Group A Finals match against G2 Esports.
After the first two maps went to their respective teams, the tiebreaker took place on Inferno. It was a nail-biter of a map that literally came down to the wire. In the end, G2 took the win 16-14 and earned their Semifinals spot. Now, Gambit must start their playoffs run from the Quarterfinals.
This sets up for a likely clash between Gambit and Na’Vi in the Semis. These teams are no strangers to each other, having played eight matches in the past two months. Gambit, leads that head-to-head 5-3, but Na’Vi took the most recent win at the StarLadder CIS RMR Finals. Between these top two ranked teams in the world, only one can have a shot at the IEM Cologne title.
G2’s Grand Entrance
Speaking of G2 Esports, Europe’s most promising team has made waves so far. After wins against Complexity, BIG, and Gambit, G2 have claimed a top four finish and $80,000 minimum already. However, G2 will not be satisfied just yet. Their level of play has been really ramping up in the past few months. G2 has been on a streak of top four finishes at every event they’ve attended since mid-April.
After taking the team’s first win against this Gambit squad, it is clear that G2 are true championship contenders. Not only do they have a ticket straight to Semifinals, they are also on the easier side of the bracket. With Gambit and Na’Vi likely to battle it out on the other side, all G2 needs to do is take down either Virtus.pro or Astralis to earn a Finals berth.
So far at IEM Cologne, G2 has the third-highest team rating at 1.11. They also have two players in the top eight performers throughout the Group Stage in the cousins NiKo and huNter-. If there is any time for this G2 roster to break through the final barrier and claim the org’s first big CS:GO title in a very long time, the IEM Cologne Playoffs is where it can happen.
FaZe Clan’s Renaissance
The absolute biggest surprise at IEM Cologne has been FaZe Clan. The international roster has been struggling for months on end to make an impact anywhere. The once powerful squad has looked like a shell of its prime self, dropping all the way out of the top 30 teams worldwide for the first time in the org’s CS:GO history.
The fact that they even made it out of the Play-In Stage when faced with Evil Geniuses and Complexity was a surprise in of itself. No one would expect that FaZe would end up advancing to the Playoffs as well. Their first match was a tough one against Astralis which resulted in a 2-0 loss, dropping FaZe to the Losers’ Bracket. Despite that, they were able to upset Team Spirit, Team Vitality and Heroic consecutively to earn their playoff berth.
FaZe Clan currently have the most maps played as a result at 10. Their team rating of 1.05 has them at number four overall. With olafmeister back in the lineup, FaZe look to be really gelling as a team. Every member is playing well and has the potential for a pop-off carry performance. FaZe’s road forward is difficult, to say the least. Gambit awaits them in Quarterfinals, with Na’Vi being a reward for another upset win. Even if FaZe Clan don’t make it all the way, this performance has been a breath of fresh air.
Triple Grand Slam Point
Of the six teams vying for the IEM Cologne title, three of them are currently sitting on two IEM Grand Slam tournament wins. Astralis, Na’Vi, and Gambit will all be competing for their third which would put any of them on Grand Slam point. It has been over two years since Team Liquid took the Season 2 Grand Slam, making this current Season the longest so far.
With LANs making their return at IEM Cologne, its about time that the Counter-Strike world refocused on the most prestigious award short of a Valve Major trophy. No other team with a Grand Slam win is present in these playoffs, meaning that either a team makes it to Slam point, or a new contender throws their hat into the ring.
The team that needs this win the most is Astralis. Their initial wins came the longest ago. If the Danish squad doesn’t take the IEM Cologne title, they’ll lose their first Slam point which came at IEM Beijing 2019. On the flip side, the team that has the most room to play is Gambit. They have six total chances to get just two more wins. If Gambit is able to close out Cologne in their favor, they’ll only need to win one of the next five ESL/IEM events.
The IEM Cologne Playoffs begin on July 16th at 10:00 A.M EST with Astralis vs Virtus.pro.