The first semifinal match at the ECS Season Finals will be a North American showdown as NRG Esports and Team Liquid face off for their spot in the Grand Final.
NRG’s overall form has been on an upward trajectory for a number of months now, and the recent second place finish at the StarSeries Season 5 Finals showed that the players are now more than capable of mixing it up with the top teams.
The NRG players have had to play just two best of one matches at the ECS Finals so far after advancing in first place from Group B following comfortable wins over G2 Esports and FaZe Clan On June 8th.
While the NRG players were sitting back and relaxing on day two of the competition, Team Liquid had to win a tough best of three against Fnatic in the decider match of Group A.
Liquid had started strong on day one by defeating Fnatic in the first best of one but the North American team fell at the hands of Astralis in the winners match for the group and had to wait to face the winner of Fnatic vs. Cloud9.
The rematch against the Swedish team ended with Team Liquid once again taking the victory, this time with a 2-0 series score, despite a late comeback attempt from Jesper ‘JW’ Wecksell and company.
The semifinal between NRG and Team Liquid will be a best of three and promises to be a close one due to both teams coming from the same region and playing against each other so often.
After qualifying for the playoffs on day one, NRG’s in-game leader, Damien ‘daps’ Steele spoke to Dexerto about his confidence in his team’s map pool and their recent improvement results, saying “I’ve grown a lot” and “the players have definitely got comfortable on LAN”.
"I’d say it’s like 80%." — @daps on @cerq adjusting to speaking English since joining @NRGgg. daps also talks about who he expects to face, and the tournament format.
IEM Katowice 2021 has already served up some amazing matchups, and now the quarterfinals are upon us. With CIS supremacy sweeping the CS:GO server, Astralis stand as the lone force to try and stave the three Russian squads away.
Six teams have qualified for the playoffs at IEM Katowice 2021, and four of them are from CIS. Gambit, Natus Vincere, and Virtus.pro are hungry for quarterfinals success, while Spirit awaits one of them in the semifinals.
It’s put more pressure now, more than ever, onto two stalwarts of their respective scenes — Denmark’s (and Europe’s) Astralis, and North America’s Liquid. The latter looks reinvigorated with Gabriel ‘FalleN’ Toledo in the squad, while the former are struggling to reach their peak online.
Ahead of this weekend’s action, let’s take a look at the two quarterfinals — Gambit vs Natus Vincere and Virtus.pro vs Astralis — and what you should expect.
Gambit vs Natus Vincere
The battle for CIS supremacy will reign on in the quarterfinals of IEM Katowice when Gambit takes on Natus Vincere. This has been a historically Na’Vi-sided matchup, to the surprise of absolutely no one.
Gambit went on a lower-bracket tear to make it to the quarterfinals of IEM Katowice, and they won’t let their rivals stand in their way. Young gun Dmitry ‘sh1ro’ Sokolov is really trying to make a name for himself as CS:GO’s next big AWPer, trying to reach the heights of idols like Oleksandr ‘s1mple’ Vastyliev.
Seeing the two face off will be a treat in this quarterfinal, but don’t expect the reigning champions to take it easy. Na’Vi are really finding their stride now, and despite losing to Team Liquid to find themselves in this position, you can’t keep them down for long.
Denis ‘electronic’ Sharipov and s1mple are bouncing off each other better than ever, and it really feels like a repeat of IEM Katowice 2020 is on the cards. Na’Vi didn’t make it easy for themselves there in groups, before proceeding to demolish Liquid, Astralis, and G2 Esports without dropping a single map in playoffs.
Gambit’s going to have to be prepared for a Na’Vi they’ve never faced before. It’s the biggest stage this matchup has happened on, and while the potential for an upset is there, you’d have to back Na’Vi to finish strong at Katowice.
Virtus.pro and Astralis marks the first rematch of the StarLadder Major Berlin 2019 final. Back then, Astralis were decimating anyone in their patch, and VP (then Avangar) were collateral as the Danes took home their fourth major. However, it’s funny how things change in 18 months.
Astralis’ experimentation with six and seven-man rosters has led nowhere, and with the core five back together, they’ve been struggling to get back into gear. Virtus.pro, on the other hand, has started 2021 on fire with a win at cs_summit 7 (where Astralis didn’t play).
One also has to look at how far Virtus.pro has come since then. “Jame Time” might still be the slogan, but everyone from Timur ‘buster’ Tulepov to Mareks ‘YEKINDAR’ Galinskis have been pulling their weight. The team isn’t as reliant on Jame’s AWP to win as they once were, and he’s taken to the IGL role like a fish to water.
If there is one time where Virtus.pro could get their revenge, it’s now. VP have taken down Vitality and FURIA — two of the best teams in the world — to get here, and Astralis have been hot and cold to start off the year. The tournament remaining online likely doesn’t help Astralis either.
However, you can never count out the Danes. Much like Gambit vs Natus Vincere, the real big ticket matchup will be Jame vs Nicolai ‘device’ Reedtz. The AWPers will once again prove to be the deciding factor in this matchup, and if history is anything to go by, it should be explosive.
Buster: 45.5 total kills
Over = 115 points
Under = 85 points
Sanji: 32.5 total deaths
Over = 80 points
Under = 120 points
Magisk: 9.5 total assists
Over = 100 points
Under = 100 points
gla1ve: 13.5 total headshots
Over = 90 points
Under = 110 points
Device: 88.5 total kills and deaths
Over = 110 points
Under = 90 points
The IEM Katowice 2021 quarterfinals get underway on February 26.