The field is stacked heading into the IEM Cologne playoffs. Each team in the quarterfinals all have a shot at toppling giants and ascending the throne that awaits at the end of the line. Today, instead of the usual weekly news roundup, here’s a look at four things to watch for from the four teams that duel this Friday.
Mareks “YEKINDAR” Galinskis has made himself known as one of the best Latvian Counter-Strike players to grace the world. His decisive playmaking abilities and incredible first bullet accuracy has made him one of the top entry-fraggers CIS has to offer. Making his statement at IEM Katowice last year, the Latvian shouldered a lot of pressure following their second-place finish. Going up against the terrifying legends of Astralis on the other side of the bracket, YEKINDAR is tasked with his career’s greatest challenge yet.
Dzhami “Jame” Ali and Alexey “qikert” Golubev have been key reasons as to why Virtus.Pro was able to follow through with another incredible lower bracket run. However, in order to find their championship winning form, VP need their young rifler to rise back to the form he so capably found in Poland. The odds are stacked against the CIS Polar Bears, but a little Latvian dynamite could hurl them past the quarterfinals.
Championed as one of the hottest prospects from Denmark, Lucas “Bubzkji” Andersen was immediately signed by Astralis as their sixth man substitute for the main roster. Although his maps played were few and far between, he showed glimmers of hope that rivaled his performances on the MAD Lions. With Nicolai “device” Reedtz suddenly departing from the lineup, Bubzkji must now fill a gaping hole that lies within his Danish roster.
The core of Astralis has still been able to string along confident wins against Heroic and FaZe, but the glaring issue of firepower stares back at the veteran Danish squad. Bubzkji has shown his capability to perform against the very best and it is now or never to realize his own potential. If the young Dane can return to his Flashpoint 1 championship form, Virtus.Pro will certainly have their hands full in the quarterfinals.
Pressure manifests in all kinds of ways when LAN arrives and the number one team in the world was no exception. Gambit had a turbulent group stage and a lot of it came from some absences of Sergey “Ax1le” Rykhtorov. The one-two punch of Ax1le and Abay “Hobbit” Khasenov was one of the cornerstones that broke the CIS kings into the top of the scene. Although Hobbit has performed well at Cologne, the jitters of the biggest stage has certainly rattled Ax1le.
The intelligence that the Kazakh meshes with his astute rifling has been nothing short of brilliant in 2021. However, LAN is a completely different beast altogether. If the Gambit roster want anything to do with becoming an era-defining squad IEM Cologne is a must win for them. The only way that they can get over the speedbumps of G2 or Na’Vi lies in Ax1le’s mind and mouse.
FaZe Clan’s Rain
A tumultuous year turned wonderful resurgence; IEM Cologne brought good fortune to FaZe Clan. After Marcelo “coldzera” David’s departure, Havard “rain” Nygaard had to rise back once again to his star form. Lauded as the consistent third star in his heyday on the original FaZe squad, rain has shown time and time again that he has more gas in the tank. Showcasing a sudden reignition in his performances, rain has stepped up dramatically for FaZe, albeit his former consistency.
Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken and Helvijs “broky” Saukants have been the youngbloods to reenergize FaZe throughout their underdog story of IEM Cologne. Beating Spirit, Vitality, and even Heroic, most of the credit must go to them. However, rain remains the wild card of this FaZe roster. Handling tough positions on most maps, brandishing deadly pistols, and leading the team in experience, the Norwegian veteran needs to roll back the years and deliver a spectacular performance against the bosses of Gambit in the quarterfinals.
“From Our Haus to Yours”
All images courtesy of ESL Gaming