Competition in the group stage was fierce, but now only six teams remain to battle it out in the playoffs.
The winner of the IEM Katowice 2021 tournament will earn $400,000 out of the $1,000,000 prize pool along with the coveted IEM Katowice trophy. The winners will also score a point towards winning the third season of the Intel Grand Slam title.
The first playoff match begins on Friday, Feb. 26 at 4:00 P.M. CET and 10:00 A.M. EST.
Two Group Leaders Skipped to Semifinals
The two group leaders, Team Liquid and Spirit, skipped straight to the semifinals. Neither of the group winners were expected to perform this well ahead of the tournament. Both teams qualified to the group stage through the play-ins
Team Liquid topped group A. On the way, they defeated Faze Clan, Vitality and most importantly Na’Vi. Their resilient performance in the third map of the series against Na’Vi was particularly impressive. Liquid managed to stop the comeback victory of Na’Vi in the final round of the map on Inferno and managed to pull out the series win in the overtime rounds.
Team Spirit’s performance in group B was equally impressive. They started their run by sending G2 to the lower bracket in the opening round and defeated the two Danish squads of Heroic and Astralis to secure their spot in the semifinals. Team Spirit’s highlight performance in the tournament was also in the third map of the group finals. The CIS squad stunned Astalis on Dust 2, defeating them 16-1. Their only round loss came at the pistol round after they had a 15-0 lead at the end of the first half.
Four Teams Will Battle It Out At the Quarterfinals
The first quarterfinal matchup will be played between Na’Vi and Gambit Esports. The last series between the two teams was another quarterfinal at IEM New York last October. The winner of the series was Na’Vi with a 2-0 scoreline.
Na’Vi will be the clear favorites of the series this time around too. Although Gambit seems to be in good form Na’Vi are the top team out of the CIS region. If they can manage to go all the way and win the tournament they may be crowned as the best team in the world for the first time in a long while.
The winner of the clash between Na’Vi and Gambit will face Team Spirit in the semifinal in another CIS showdown.
The second quarterfinal series will be played between Astralis and Virtus.pro. The two teams haven’t faced each other since two years ago in the StarLadder Berlin Major final in 2019 when the core of the current Virtus.pro squad was playing under Avangar banner. With the two teams having no recent history it will be curious to see how the series evolves.
On one hand, Astralis is sitting at the top of world rankings and with their track record, it is very hard to bet against them in any series. On the other hand, they look to be on shaky ground after their loss against Team Spirit and Virtus.pro is a great up-and-coming team to take the fight to them.
Whoever comes out victorious between Astralis and Virtus.pro will become Team Liquid’s semifinal opponents.
Potential Grand Final Storylines
There are many potential match-ups for the grand final, however, three of them stand out as the best potential storylines.
The first of these is a potential CIS showdown in the grand final. With Na’Vi, Gabit and Team Spirit making up one side of the bracket there is already a guaranteed place for a CIS team in the grand final. If Virtus.pro can manage to get through Astralis and Team Liquid, this would make the final series a CIS showdown for the IEM Katowice trophy.
It is also worth mentioning that if Na’Vi play and win the grand final against Virtus.pro, they would have won an international tournament by beating exclusively CIS teams in the playoffs.
The second potential storyline is the resurgence of Team Liquid. The American squad have already exceeded expectations by becoming group winners. If they can manage to pull off the tournament victory against any grand final opponent, it would be a huge success for the recently updated Team Liquid lineup.
The third potential grand final scenario arguably has the highest likelihood of happening. With Vitality being on a downward trajectory, if both Na’Vi and Astralis make it to the grand final, it would make it a final between the top two teams in the world.
With all of its great matchups and potential storylines, IEM Katowice 2021 playoffs will kick-off on Friday, Feb. 26 at 4:00 P.M. CET time and 10:00 A.M. EST.
You can follow this link to check out the full schedule and find out more details about the tournament.
Featured Image Courtesy of ESL
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