The IEM Cologne group stages will get going soon after an action-packed play-in stage where all but one of the favorites have made it through the gauntlet. There will be no German team for the home crowd to cheer on but a group of Brazilians made it to the Cathedral of Counter-Strike: these were just two of the notable developments in the preliminary part of the biggest CS:GO tournament of the summer.
In the end, things have mostly gone as expected in the preliminary stage of IEM Cologne, with most of the bigger teams successfully leaping past this initial hurdle to gain entry to the group stage of the event. The one exception to this, of course, is BIG, and their demise alongside Sprout’s means that there will be no German representation in the main tournament, which is always a shame.
However, neither of them warranted qualification on the merits: Sprout gave a good account of themselves, but they’ve never been top sixteen material, while BIG once again reminded fans and viewers of just how large the gap is between their online and offline play, much to the dismay of gob b and everyone else involved. As shaky as Astralis started out here, they were ultimately worthy winners of that best-of-three affair.
00 Nation’s qualification has to go down as a surprise, but definitely a pleasant one. A win against Astralis, a close series against Team Spirit and a derby win over Imperial: they’ve showed enough to earn their spot in the Cathedral of Counter-Strike. Had Imperial qualified, they would have done so after a 16-6 loss to Outsiders, a close win over world #48 ORDER and world #33 00 Nation. Something something last dance: I prefer the new(-ish) fandango.
Beating paiN in overtime in a best-of-one CS:GO match and TYLOO in a best-of-three isn’t exactly the resumé you need to challenge s1mple and co.: this MOUZ squad has to be a prime candidate for roster adjustments in the offeason. Prediction: NAVI
A tough one to predict. Heroic’s got a new roster and NIP’s is never complete. (It’s insane that they’re going to go into the break without having already resolved the dev1ce situation. What a waste of everyone’s time.) Let’s chalk this one up to the warm-up of the play-in and give it to the Danes. Prediction. Heroic
Wouldn’t it be hilarious? The Spaniards are up to #14 on the HLTV rankings with a tournament win behind their backs. They are, of course, underdogs, but don’t underestimate their opponents’ ability to tilt off the face of the earth. Prediction: Movistar Riders
Another reason why Movistar Riders might pull off their upset is that they also gave Vitality a black eye in the play-ins. Regardless of how optimistic you are about the prospects of zonic’s international amalgamation, the mixture of ENCE is infinitely less volatile. Prediction: EZ 4 ENCE
FaZe’s faceplanting ability and consistent inconsistency shouldn’t be underestimated. Still, come on. It’s not like coldzera and co. made it through the upper bracket of the play-is. Prediction: FaZe Clan
YEKINDAR for shox is a big individual upgrade, and daps should also elevate Liquid’s setups. This one will be closer than it might seem on the surface, with real upset potential. Prediction: Team Liquid HOPIUM
A funny little regional derby. Cloud9’s always been the superior big brother and there’s little reason to expect this to change now that buster and YEKINDAR are gone. Prediction: Cloud9
The Danes already found a way to lose to one Brazilian outfit – why not make it two out of two? For what it’s worth, it looks like this is one of the events where k0nfig remembered to turn on his monitor, and this could be the difference by itself between a group stage exit or a playoff run. Fun fact: FURIA actually rank above Astralis on the HLTV rankings – and an even more fun fact is that this is no longer the shock it once would have been. Likely a three-mapper, it could go either way. Prediction: FURIA
Group A: NAVI, MOUZ, Heroic, NIP, G2, Movistar Riders, Team Vitality, ENCE
Group B: FaZe Clan, 00 Nation, Team Spirit, Team Liquid, Cloud9, Outsiders, Astralis, FURIA
July 7: Group A upper bracket round 1 matches, 2/4 Group B upper bracket round 1 matches
July 8: 2/4 Group B upper bracket round 1 matches, Group A upper bracket round 2 matches, Group A lower bracket round 1 matches,
July 9: Group A lower bracket round 2 matches, Group B upper bracket round 2 matches
July 10: Group A decider matches, Group B lower bracket round 2 matches, Group B decider matches
Photo credit: ESL