The Cathedral of Counter-Strike. That’s what ESL call Cologne’s LANXESS Arena. Rather than just being a bit of clever marketing on ESL’s part, it truly has become the crown jewel in the CS:GO competitive calendar. It may no longer be a Valve Major, but it is the year’s most prestigious and revered event. To get to the LANXESS, the 16 teams would need to battle their way through the 2018’s rather brutal group stages.
To call Cologne stacked would be doing a disservice to just how competitive the field looked prior to the tournament. With nine of the top world's top ten teams according to the HLTV rankings, this was going to be a fight to the death. While some of those knocked out were expected, the group stages delivered a few surprises and plenty of heartbreak for more fancied teams. Singapore’s B.O.O.T-d[S] weren't expected to do much and didn’t. Former Major-winners Gambit went out early as well, as most predicted. North lasted longer in the tournament than most would have thought, but eventually went out to MIBR after a close three map series. Cloud9 with Styko subbing in failed to make a positive impression, but finished ahead of supposedly better teams in 9th-12th. Renegades’ 9th-12th is probably in line with their current level.
North America’s best hope finished a frankly dismal 13th-16th after capitulating to BIG, 7-16. Liquid’s 0-2 loss to North in the Group B decider match would have been unthinkable a month ago. Lately, the cracks have started to show and this only served to confirm their recent decline.
The recent roster shuffle between fnatic and the Ninjas hasn’t seemed to have helped them much. They got destroyed by a depleted Cloud9 in the opening match, before being stomped by the unheralded ENCE. NiP failed to reach double digits in either match, their worst display for quite some time.
The fifth-ranked team in the world just signed Polish star Janusz "Snax" Pogorzelski and were expecting another good run. Snax had a decent individual performance, but they were clearly missing some of Styko’s signature support play at times. Snax has given them an upgrade in firepower, but someone else will now need to do the dirty work. With a 9-12th finish, they’ll need to figure out their roles going forward and come back stronger.
The newly-signed former SK lineup looked shaky at best and shocking at worst. This team has not been functioning well for quite some time and the trend continued in Germany. Their loss to FaZe was expected, but a narrow victory over North would have been unacceptable six months ago. The loss to BIG would have been unthinkable. 7th-8th was the best they could muster.
As we all anticipated Faze and Astralis powered their way straight to the Semi-finals and prior to the start of Cologne, Fnatic were far from a done deal in making their way to the playoffs. In typical fashion, Fnatic managed to find themselves in the Quarter-finals thanks to a massive performance from Jesper "JW" Wecksell against BIG. Na'Vi made it through, but struggled on a few occasions when Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev had a couple of merely excellent performances. In the context of s1mple, being anything other than the best to ever play the game means the team can struggle. It’s a hard knock life for s1mple.
While not making it to the playoffs, the 7th-8th from ENCE was highly impressive. The Finnish team managed to vanquish NIP and Mousesports, while pushing Na'Vi hard. The 16-year old Jere 'sergej' Salo was a revelation.
Berlin International Gaming found their way to the Quarter-Finals after wins over Liquid, Renegades and a hard-fought 2-1 over MIBR. Tactical Counter-Strike is back! BIG's qualification into the top four of ESL One Cologne gives the host country a team to properly cheer for this weekend.
With Astralis on top and BIG in the playoffs, the Kevin "Ex6TenZ" Droolans-led G2 showcased their own masterful tactical display. While lacking a little in firepower at the moment, their wins over Na'Vi and Mousesports certainly made a statement. Their play has looked crisp and they even managed to push Astralis hard on Dust II.
Heading into today’s action, that BIG vs G2 matchup is a mouthwatering prospect. G2 are the obvious favourites, but don't be surprised if BIG manage to continue their surprising form into this match. Friday, July 6th 15:00 - Natus Vincere vs. fnatic | BO3 18:30 - BIG vs. G2 | BO3 Saturday, July 7th 15:00 - Semi-final #1 | BO3 18:30 - Semi-final #2 | BO3 Sunday, July 8th 16:00 - Grand final | BO5