IEM Cologne 2021 is down to its final six teams. Only one will be crowned champion in the Cathedral of Counter-Strike, and these five players will be a big part in dictating whether CIS lifts another title in 2021, or a new contender arises ahead of the Major.
It’s truly been CIS vs the world in Counter-Strike so far in 2021, and IEM Cologne 2021 is no different. While it’s not like Katowice (where all four CIS teams made it to playoffs), there’s still considerable representation in the top six.
However, they’re not all in form. In fact, G2 Esports and FaZe Clan have been more of the surprise, pushing through to the top six despite fluctuating results. It’s also hard to look past Astralis too, who are trying to relive their glory days without dev1ce.
So, who do you need to watch this weekend in the Cathedral of Counter-Strike? We’ve got five players you must keep an eye on (and trust us — it’s going to be a battle of the Big Green).
Oleksandr ‘s1mple’ Kostyliev (Natus Vincere)
Okay, let’s just get the obvious out of the way. S1mple is one of the greatest of all time, everyone knows that. However, he’s been playing well above even his own lofty expectations. His 1.52 rating is 0.18 higher than anyone else in the tournament — and 0.27 higher than anyone else in the playoffs (which is, funnily enough, his right-hand man in electronic).
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He’s just had an unbelievable amount of impact, both with the AWP and without it. It’s truly s1mple’s Cologne to win, and while it’s not a Major, it’s certainly telling of his form ahead of PGL Stockholm in November.
Abay ‘Hobbit’ Khasenov (Gambit)
Hobbit might not be Gambit’s IGL anymore, and it might be for the best. He hasn’t been for a while with Nafany taking up the reins, but the veteran has been the cool head the squad of rising stars has needed to raze the field and become the indisputable best team of 2021 (so far).
While every part of the Gambit squad has shone so far in Cologne, Hobbit is the consistent rock, always posting up well — especially on CT side. While they had a slight slip-up against G2 before playoffs, you just know that Hobbit will be able to rally the troops with his experience to get them back to the top.
Timur ‘buster’ Tulepov (Virtus.pro)
If it wasn’t for Buster, we wouldn’t be talking about Virtus.pro right now in the IEM Cologne playoffs. He had not one, but two huge clutches against Complexity, when VP’s back was against the wall, to dig them out of a hole and advance to the top six.
He’s not as electric as Jame or YEKINDAR — although his 1.36 rating and +13 KD against NiP shows he’s got the flair — but Buster’s clutch ability is exactly what you need once you hit the playoffs of a big event.
Francois ‘AmaNEk’ Delaunay (G2 Esports)
AmaNEk has some big shoes to fill on the G2 Esports roster. Is he doing well so far in kennyS’ absence in taking up the AWP? Well, as far as stats go, he’s one of the lowest performing AWPers at Cologne, barely scraping together a rating above 1.00.
However, what his selflessness has allowed is for G2 to bounce back to their explosive best. His more supportive style gives NiKo and huNter- the chance to really thrive on the server. If AmaNEk can truly step into his own come playoffs though, they might be the first real threat to CIS supremacy in Counter-Strike this year.
Helvijs ‘broky’ Saukants (FaZe Clan)
Has broky finally matured into his role on FaZe Clan? His recent performances certainly indicate that. While Twistzz firmly remains the star of the show, the 20-year-old looks clean on the AWP. It was a big question looming over FaZe ever since GuardiaN left, but that’s been firmly answered — even if it’s almost two years later.
While he did struggle against ZywOo (hardly unexpected), the level of competition is only going to go up. Twistzz does need that help on the rifles, and while Rain has stepped up somewhat at IEM Cologne to do so, a big part of their game plan relies on broky holding down the fort with the Big Green. It’ll be interesting to see if he’s up to the task.
The IEM Cologne 2021 playoffs kick off on July 16.