Steven R. July 5, 2019
ESL One Cologne’s semifinals are going to have a main event feel.
Following Team Vitality’s win over NRG Esports, the French squad is set to face Astralis for a spot in the grand finals. This is the first time the two teams will face off in an official tournament match.
Vitality earned their spot in the semifinals with a dominant 2-0 victory over NRG Esports.
The first showdown on Dust 2 was essentially a blowout from Vitality. Spurred on by a hot start from Nathan "NBK-" Schmitt, the team got off to a massive lead which was maintained by strong damage output from Mathieu "ZywOo" Herbaut. NRG rallied a bit after falling behind 9-1, but never managed to rack up a lengthy winning streak. This allowed Vitality to lock up a 16-7 win to start the series.
Things initially looked to be turning around on Mirage as NRG got off to a strong 7-3 start. NRG never really settled in as ZywOo broke off a number of multi-kill rounds to keep them from gaining serious economic momentum. When Vitality got the ball rolling in earnest, NRG had no answer. Vitality broke off 13 straight to lock up the series with another 16-7 victory.
Since coming together in October 2018, Vitality has quickly established itself as one of the best teams in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. The squad got off to a hot start by taking first place in their first live tournament at DreamHack Open Atlanta 2018 and put on a respectable performance at the IEM Katowice Major.
In the months since then, Vitality has looked like one of the world’s best and has put up the results to prove it with wins at the ECS Season 7 Finals and CS_Summit 4. Despite competing at a number of the same tournaments with Astralis, they have yet to face off in a pro game. That’s changing here, and it’s coming at an interesting time.
Astralis was on another level from the rest of the CSGO world throughout 2018 and in early 2019, winning back-to-back majors as well as other prestigious events including ESL Pro League Season 8 and the ELEAGUE CSGO Premier. The team has fallen off a bit in recent months, however.
Though they have looked solid at events like BLAST Pro Series: Madrid 2019 and the ESL Pro League Season 9 Finals, they haven’t looked like the unstoppable force they were over the last 18 months. Worse, the team looked downright shaky at events like BLAST Pro Series: Miami and the ECS Season 7 Finals, and eventually gave up its long held top spot in the rankings to Team Liquid.
That hasn’t been the case at ESL One Cologne, as Astralis has looked like their old selves. The team advanced directly into the semifinals by slicing its way through the group stage with wins over BIG, Fnatic, and Ninjas in Pyjamas.
The showdown between the white hot up-and-comers and the defending stalwarts is a must-watch affair for CSGO fans.