The LANXESS Arena in Cologne, Germany has come to be known as ‘the cathedral of Counter-Strike’ by its fans, and this competition looks set to stay true to its name as the ESL One Cologne 2018 playoffs campaign through the weekend. Six remaining teams will crusade for the lion’s share of a $300,000 (£226,000) prize pool and a win counting towards the Intel Grand Slam – who will be this year’s victor?
Let’s review the action thus far and see who’s the best bet to take home the trophy in this week’s ESI Gambling Report.
Opening up playoffs is Na’Vi and Fnatic in a best-of-three series culminating the grand final on Sunday.
Na’Vi booked their spot in quarterfinals after trouncing ENCE in a series that went the distance; the matchup may have been a little too close for comfort for the Ukrainian troop, but the lower-ranked ENCE put up a valiant effort so a close call can’t be held against them. Prior to Cologne, Na’Vi had seen success in the form of a CS:GO Asia Championships 2018 and StarSeries & i-League CS:GO Season 5 title finish. The team was pegged as the dark horse at Cologne due to their aptness in taking out elite teams; just a few months ago at DreamHack Masters Marseille, Na’Vi curbed Fnatic among other robust contenders such as mousesports and Gambit on their way to finals. Na’Vi dropped into the lower bracket early in Cologne where they were met with the challenge of clawing their way back into the weekend outings which they achieved.
Dubbed the ‘new Ninjas in Pyjamas’ by Duncan ‘Thorin’ Shields, the current all-Swedish roster has taken an upswing after taking on Richard ‘Xzit’ Landström, but is the squad fit enough to go all the way in Cologne? We’re unsure considering the talent pool manifesting itself in the playoffs. Sizing up Fnatic to Na’Vi in this initial bout though, we should see some sparks fly. The Swedish platoon drew North and BIG in the upper-bracket before ultimately falling to FaZe Clan in a gutty lobbying for a semifinal slot. This matchup is a tough-call, although Na’Vi is favored slightly by bookmakers to win, Fnatic can easily pull this one off and send Na’Vi home – either way this series should be a riveting skirmish.
|bet365 1.44||bet365 2.62|
|GG.bet 1.40||GG.bet 2.75|
|betway 1.50||betway 2.40|
Another battle of the underdogs would show Friday in an advance or exit contest between G2 and BIG. Playing on home soil, BIG should have an extra bit of momentum going into this fight – although Germans are ecstatic about Counter-Strike in general, so action of any sorts will be well-received by the audience. BIG just barely edged past MIBR in a nail-biting series that ended in a 22-20 victory against the Brazilian side and provided them with the last playoff spot in Cologne. Leading up the the quarterfinals, BIG would take down a shaky Liquid and Renegades on their way up, being expectedly shot down by Fnatic in the upper-bracket.
G2 is a squad that’s roughly in the same class as BIG, so their quarterfinal meeting should be an intriguing one just as the Fnatic vs. Na’Vi matchup promises to be. G2 swaggered a more impressive run through the group stage at Cologne, easing past Na’Vi and Mousesports before their rendezvous with Astralis that would put their semifinal placing out of reach. G2 bolstered quite a bit of dexterity as they wrestled with the Danish powerhouse though – forcing an overtime scenario on the first map where Astralis’ stamina was likely the catalyst for their victory. Between the two, G2 should have this one in the bag if they can maintain the same vigor in which they’ve approached each series at Cologne – they’re the more seasoned squad overall and while it’s very much possible for BIG to pull off a big upset here in the quarterfinals, all signs are pointing towards G2 to win this series.
|bet365 2.25||bet365 1.57|
|GG.bet 2.46||GG.bet 1.49|
|betway 2.30||betway 1.55|
The Danes have been the team to beat in every tournament they’ve played in since engineering an impeccable form in April and the status quo in Cologne is all the same.
Astralis have had some time off since their ECS Season 5 win, which is part of their CSGO philosophy that teams need practice, play and rest to achieve dominance – an effort that has appeared to work well for the Danes. Although the squad lacks a true ‘superstar’, the acquisition of Emil “Magisk” Reif has added quite a bit of firepower to Astralis, deepening the all-Danish lineup. The team has been able to achieve stardom via technical strategies and intelligent approaches that has made them untouchable in the last several months. The Danish army are the clear favourites to raise the trophy in Cologne this year, preserving their blue blood thus far showing little-to-no signs of distress in group play – it’d be a true triumph to see another squad outclass Astralis in their modern condition. Cologne’s Grand Final has air of being an Astralis and FaZe prize fight and this will be a series of the ages; with FaZe being one of the only teams to have contested Astralis as of recently, there is a lot of hype behind this likely matchup.
To no surprise, FaZe Clan would breeze through the teams in Group B and secure their semifinal spot, awaiting their pending challenger on Saturday. Still fielding Jorgen ‘cromen’ Robertsen as a stand-in for Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer Gustafsson, the squad has managed to hang-on to their championship status thus far.
FaZe drew a relatively uncomplicated circle of contenders in group play, vanquishing both MIBR and BOOT then icing the cake against Fnatic in a 2-1 victory. FaZe’s conquest to take home the Intel Grand Slam prize is underlining each of their matches in Cologne following their win at ESL One Belo Horizonte; with an additional $1,000,000 at stake providing a title finish at this event, FaZe has all the incentives needed to give everything they’ve got in the final leg of this tournament.
With Liquid out of the running, Astralis should be FaZe’s only true trail left to overcome – however, either Na’Vi, Fnatic, or G2 may prove to be a test of its own.
No matter how you slice it, Cologne will be a true dog fight from the long shots to the front runners. There’s a ton of artistry left to duke it out in the playoffs, if you do decide to wager on any of the action, Esports Insider reminds you to bet responsibly!