While the tournament gods gave us two tantalizing semi-finals for the event, the Liquid vs Astralis game is perhaps the more prestigious one, if only because of the path the two teams have traveled throughout the major. History is definitely on the Danes’ side but the Americans’ recent performances, including their win over their opponents in the New Legends Stage would suggest that they could very well live up the recent hype.
Whisper it, but EliGE and co. are the only ones left undefeated in London – and they’ve been styling on most of their opposition so far. Only Vega Squadron and Astralis managed to pick up more than ten rounds against them in the Swiss stages and while HellRaisers did well to take the series to a third map, they couldn’t hold a candle to their opponents on any of the maps that weren’t their own pick (including their 16-9 defeat to them in the New Challengers Stage). They are firing on all cylinders just at the right time and may very well be ready to put their Danish voodoo behind them as well.
While Astralis almost pulled off the impossible against them on Inferno, they managed to swiftly shut down the ridiculous comeback in overtime, never looking back. Their rise also seems to coincide with a relative blip of their upcoming opponents – who are, lest we forget, so good right now that a second-placed finish at an invitational constitutes a disappointing result for them. Digging a bit deeper, they have certainly had their issues on Mirage since the end of the player break which could very well provide an opportunity for Team Liquid to push on towards their first major title.
History is not on their side – not only is Astralis’ big-game pedigree impeccable, they really had the Americans’ number for a long time. Liquid have a 1-9 record against the team in multi-map series since last September and a 2-3 one in best-of-one series which includes their triumph earlier on during this major. Yet still, this feels like their best chance to date if they want to take down the current giants of Counter-Strike.
An ominous red star
It’s not the pristine perfection we’ve perhaps anticipated going into the event, but best-of-one defeats to NiP and Liquid are mere blemishes on Astralis’ performance so far during the major. It’s one of the travesties of the current format that this team had to battle through the whole gauntlet to get to the top four but they haven’t buckled yet, kicking into high gear for the playoffs. The 16-14; 16-12 scoreline doesn’t really do justice to the excellent job they have done against FaZe in a series where the ultimate outcome never really seemed in doubt – if anything, minor signs of overconfidence made the Inferno game last longer than it should have.
It’s tough to say anything new about the team that is clearly setting the standards right now in the scene, a complex machine whose elements are working in perfect harmony, a deep map pool with powerful individual performances to make things even scarier for the opponents. This will be the core’s seventh major semi-final appearance – only olofmeister and the legendary Virtus.Pro roster compares to them.
Still, there may be chinks in the armor. Beyond the aforementioned slight issues on Mirage, Xyp9x is “only” on a +3 K/D throughout the main event so far. Yes, this is how far you have to go to find weaknesses for the side. North showed that they are not invulnerable – though it was a domestic matchup – but it would be a massive upset if Liquid could stop the red Death Star’s march towards that major title that would definitely be the capstone of their current era.
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