As the group stage draws to a close, there have undoubtedly been some huge upsets throughout this major tournament, with G2 being knocked 3 – 1 by North, and one of the primary favourites Astralis only just grabbing a spot at the live playoffs.
Gambit proved they are a team to be afraid of, only losing to Virtus.Pro in the group stage, ultimately securing them a spot in the live shows. Gambit have yet again pulled out all the stops at yet another Major, achieving Legendary status which they also obtained at ESL One Cologne 2016.
North took on G2 in the first game of day three, with North’s convincing 16 – 9 win meaning that G2 would be sent home. Along with EnVyUs being later knocked out by FaZe, this means there are no french teams in the top eight, and therefore not receiving legendary status. This is especially important in this Major, as if the rumoured French shuffle is true, the new team(s) will still have to qualify for the next Major tournament. Although EnVyUs seemed to be on a convincing streak, beating Godsent 16 – 3 and winning against Team Liquid, the french side couldn’t hold it out, after being narrowly defeated by Fnatic on Cobble, and ultimately being knocked out by FaZe on Nuke.
Mouseports were then knocked out by Liquid, with an abysmal 16-4 loss on Nuke, with almost every player on Liquid having a 2.0 KDR. This however, wasn’t enough for Liquid to secure their spot at the live playoffs, losing to Astralis 16 – 3 on Mirage, meaning they left the Major with 2 wins to 3 loses. This was also the same case for GODSENT, a team who won their penultimate game 16-8 against Optic on Cache, but ultimately losing in the draws to North, a team who’ve had a roller coaster of a ride this Major. This means that only one Swedish team, Fantic, have made it to the playoffs, with NiP shockingly not making iot our of the qualifiers back in December 2016, could mean that the rumours of JW and Flusha moving back to Fnatic become all the more likely.
Finally, we saw Optic eliminated by GODSENT on Cache, meaning that along with Liquid departing, there are no North American teams in the playoffs, after Cloud9 also failed to qualify back in December 2016. Optic had a pretty hard run in therms of their game draws, having had to face both Virtus.Pro and Astarlis, only obtaining one victory against Flipside, although with a close 16-13 score line on Train.
— ELEAGUE (@EL) January 26, 2017
This leaves some rather interesting matches for the quarter finals, and some that may be particularly hard to call, specifically Fnatic v Gambit. In my opinion, this will be a very close BO3, and as with many games we’ve seen in the past few days, will depend on the maps selected. We’ve seen Fnatic play fairly well on Cobble, beating both EnVyUs and North on it in the groups, whilst Gambit have surprised many with their run of form. Gambit have seen success on Overpass, beating North in the first game of the entire tournament, and also FaZe, although with an extremely tight 16-14 scoreline. Seeing Fnatic’s recent form in terms of individual players, many have really stepped up the the plate such as Dennis and Olof, and with their past successes, they’ll be able to put up a good fight no matter who they face. However, Gambit are undoubtedly on a role here, and their perseverance has really showed to be one of their strengths, bringing back some extremely close games. Their confidence due to their recent run of form could be to their advantage, and we’ve seen many players really step up, especially AdreN. For this reason, i think that Gambit iwll win 2-1, although with some very close games.
The first game of the day, NaVi v Astralis, leaves two teams that high expectations on them, and its almost disappointing to see them face each other as early as the quarterfinals knowing that one will be knocked out. NaVi are current favourites to win, which isn’t surprising seeing their 3-0 win in the groups stage, with convincing wins over SK, Mousesports and EnVyUs, only losing 12 rounds in the entire group stage. Astralis, although another favourite for many and with some incredibly good players, have had a little more trouble in the early stages, losing to GODSENT in their first game, and then to SK in an extremely close Dust 2 game, ultimately going to overtime with SK winning 19-17. Although they have struggled, and are renowned for choking, they also had some very convincing wins over G2 and liquid. However, due to NaVi’s extremely strong form, i think they’re capable of taking the series 2-0, especially with their strong performance’s on Cobble.
— Natus Vincere (@natusvincere) January 24, 2017
Virtus.Pro v North could potentially be a very close match, considering their shared map pool. Although VP were one of two teams to get into the live shows with a 3-0 win (the other being NaVi), their games were extremely close, two of which being 16-13 wins. However, Snax has recently been on very good form, and I think their overall play style as a team will mean that North come the weaker team, with VP potentially wining 2:0. I personally feel that North have been slightly over hyped this Major, especially after their first loss to Gambit, and considering VP’s skill set, North are not going to be going any further than the quarterfinals.
FaZe v SK is the last quarterfinal will be an extremely interesting game, they have already played each other in the groups, with FaZe narrowly losing out in overtime after SK made a strong comeback. If FaZe can really comeback with some more confidence, then they could potentially be the stronger side here, especially considering that SK are playing with a stand in, fox. Both teams have really strong in game leaders, and have really shown themselves to both be worthy of making it to the play offs, with FaZe interestingly showing their strength on Nuke. However, simply because of their consistently stronger form, as well as them winning both Major tournaments held in 2016, I think SK will take the match 2:1. SK’s comeback over FaZe in the groups showed that they are still a force to be reckoned with, even with a stand in, and currently have a reasonably diverse map pool.
Image Credit: HLTV, ELEAGUE