Credit: Michal Konkol BLAST Premier
Tuesday was the last day of the group stage at IEM Cologne 2023. While ENCE, Heroic, Vitality, and G2 played seeding matches to determine the playoff bracket, it was all or nothing for GamerLegion, Cloud9, MOUZ, Astralis, FaZe, and NAVI.
The day started with NAVI and Astralis besting FaZe and MOUZ 2-0 to set themselves up for a rendezvous later in the day. Both Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyljev and Nicolai "dev1ce" Reedtz delivered outstanding performances in the two matches which gave promises for something special in their matchup.
Before that Cloud9 managed to edge out GamerLegion with a 19-17 victory on Mirage in the third map of the series. Fittingly it was Timur 'buster' Tulepov who delivered the last kill to secure the playoffs for the team. The Kazakhstani player is currently benched on the team, but due to VISA problems for Sergey "Ax1Le" Rykhtorov, the 23-year-old rifler has done excellently to fill in the role during the group stage. It is still unknown whether Ax1Le will return for the playoffs.
ENCE and G2 in semi-finals
In the two group finals, there were two semi-final spots on the line. G2 took care of Vitality with a great reverse sweep after losing their own map pick of Inferno. But on Vertigo and Mirage G2 wrecked Vitality in both of the second halves of the maps. Rasmus 'HooXi' Nielsen was pivotal on Vertigo, while the young superstar Ilya 'm0NESY' Osipov sported a 1.99 rating on Mirage (2.50 in the second half) to secure the semi-final spot in a convincing fashion.
In the other group final it was much more even. On the third map of Mirage, ENCE, and Heroic had to use all 30 rounds to settle the score. Guy 'NertZ' Iluz dropped 30 kills during the map to seal the win for ENCE 16-14.
Astralis is "buzzing"
The final game of the day was between NAVI and Astralis. Here Astralis narrowly won Ancient after triple overtime. NAVI took care of Nuke in a much more dominant fashion leaving Overpass as the decider. But then Astralis youngster Christian 'Buzz' Andersen turned up the heat. The 20-year-old rifler delivered an insane first half to set his team up for a win. On Astralis' T-side, Buzz went 20-6 in K-D giving his team a comfortable 11-4 lead at the break. In the second half, Astralis managed to deny NAVI a comeback and won the map and match 16-12.
Yesterday's results mean that Astralis and Heroic will go head-to-head in the Lanxess Arena Friday evening. A much-awaited match between the two Danish rivals, where Astralis again seems to be competitive, which could give way for an epic match.
The schedule for the playoffs at IEM Cologne looks like this:
Friday 4/8: (CEST)
15.30: Team Vitality - Cloud9
19.00: Heroic - Astralis
15.30: ENCE - Vitality/Cloud9
19.00: G2 - Heroic/Astralis
16.00: Grand Final