ESL One Cologne is inching ever closer to its conclusion as both quarterfinals delivered the expected result in straightforward fashion in the Lanxess-Arena. The new-look NRG side fell very short against Vitality (16-7, 16-7) while Natus Vincere also recorded a comfortable victory over NiP later in the evening. With three of HLTV’s current top four teams making the semis – and Team Liquid still in the running for the Intel Grand Slam –, spectators’ excitement is high about the conclusion of this year’s event.

stanislaw struggles as ZywOo dominates match

NRG couldn’t put up a fight against Vitality whatsoever in their quarter-final appearance, winning a mere 14 rounds across Dust 2 and Mirage. Fans of the North American side may begin to question the decision of moving out daps for stanislaw in light of the massive downturn in form compared to their showing at the recent Pro League finals. The new in-game leader posted abysmal individual stats this match, finishing the series with a 41.8 ADR with little to show for it in the tactics department as Vitality romped to a 9-1 lead on the first map and never looked back.

stanislaw and co. stormed to a 7-3 lead on Mirage after a short break but lost every single round from that point on, falling to multiple incredible clutches by ZywOo. The young French prodigy posted a whopping +31 K/D on two maps – more than the rest of his team combined –, finishing the series with over 100 average damage dealt per round, cementing his place in the top echelon of AWPers in the world. With Vitality facing a mercurial Astralis for the first time ever, they have a real chance of making yet another final shortly after winning cs_summit 4 and ECS Season 7.

GeT_RiGhT gets emotional “sendoff” as NiP get thrashed by Na’Vi

The Ninjas once again made the playoffs of a prestigious LAN events but couldn’t go any further as they were swept aside by a resurgent Natus Vincere in two maps (16-12, 16-9). After proving unable to capitalize on their pistol round win on Inferno, the Swedish side fell to a 6-1 deficit before equalizing, finishing the half with a somewhat respectable-looking 8-7 scoreline, which nevertheless was way below par for a standard CT performance on the map. Despite winning the second pistol round as well, and converting the follow-up in the second half, NiP continued to struggle in the gun rounds, only winning three of them during the remainder of the map as Na’Vi eventually finished things off with back-to-back bomb defusals.

Since Inferno was the pick of the CIS side, it still looked like there was some life left in the series. In reality, Mirage turned out to be a much more one-sided affair. Na’Vi started out strong and only gave scant chances to NiP after the initial gun rounds, taking seven of the last eight rounds of the first half. Their 10-5 lead quickly grew further as they won the first four engagements in a row playing on the T side, and though the Swedes rallied to follow with a quadruple of their own, s1mple and his merry men quickly closed out the series after that with a 16-9 scoreline, setting up a date with Team Liquid in the semis.

Read more: Liquid versus Astralis: the battle of the ex-chokers

The post-match interviews were made special by a clearly emotional GeT_RiGhT announcing to the crowd that he won’t be retiring in the near future, though the legendary player’s position on NiP remains very much in doubt as we approach the Berlin major.

Old versus new in the semi-finals

With the ESL One Cologne quarterfinals settled, Na’Vi will get a chance to strike back against Team Liquid after throwing away their group stage match against the North American side. They are clearly reaping the benefits of having replaced Edward, looking much stronger than they’ve been at any post-StarSeries event. With s1mple’s extra motivation after his knife attempt essentially cost his side a map and the series against the world’s current #1 side and Liquid gunning for an astonishingly swift Intel Grand Slam title, this match is guaranteed to deliver.

On the other side of the bracket, Astralis get a taste of ZywOo’s medicine as they prepare for battle against Vitality for the first time ever. The Danes’ contentious absence from the wider tournament circuit in recent months meant that they pretty much watched the French team’s rise from the sidelines, and the battle of the two top-tier AWPers will definitely prove to be a tantalizing affair which may very well decide the semi-finals. Of course, all this means that an Astralis-Liquid final still remains on the cards for ESL One Cologne.