ESL One Cologne Group A preview
We begin our pre-event coverage of ESL One Cologne 2015, the year's second major, with a preview of Group A, in which Ninjas in Pyjamas, Team SoloMid, Renegades, and CLG are particpating.
ESL One Cologne will be the first major to break with the traditional four groups of four, double-elimination format. The major, running from August 20-23 will ostensibly begin in such a manner, however after the winners match is played for each group, the bottom three teams in each group will be reshuffled into new groups.
As such, each group preview will only treat with the opening two matches of the group, and then speculate on the teams that have a chance of advancing immediately into the quarter-finals after the Upper Bracket final for the group.
Spectators who wish to remain abreast of the action can look at the ESL One Cologne schedule here. As can be seen, the winners match for Group A should conclude before 18:00 on Thursday, August 20th, meaning that one team in Group A will aready have made the quarter-finals by the first day of the event.
This article will now treat with the four teams that comprise Group A, and their respective chances at glory at the event.
With ESL One Cologne a few days away, the time for speculation and analysis begins
Ninjas in Pyjamas
Never has there been a time in the history of CS:GO when "NiP magic" is more of a scarce commodity. Whereas fans may hold out hope on the team, offline results and statistics bring NiP's current weaknesses out into the cold light of day.
The team's streaky results are however bolstered by the equally streaky attendance record this summer in terms of events for NiP. Since June, the Swedish-Finnish team has been seen at only four events: DreamHack Open Summer, Gfinity Summer Masters I, ESWC 2015, and the FACEIT League 2015 Stage 2 finals at DreamHack Valencia.
At DreamHack Open Summer, NiP advanced in second place out its group (losing only to Na`Vi 13-16 on de_cbble) and then lost the semi-finals to fnatic in a fairly one-sided contest. The team salvaged some consolation with a victory over Acer in the all-Swedish ESPORTSM finals.
At that same event, NiP veteran Patrik "f0rest" Lindberg told HLTV.org in an interview that he would "return to form" in light of the team's struggles to finish first. The team gave glimpses of improvement by making the grand final of Gfinity Summer Masters I, however two takeaways emerged from that event for NiP.
A picture that has come to define NiP's current woes
NiP firstly dodged a bullet by matching up with mousesports in the semi-final after a languorous Virtus.pro were taken down by the German team. Secondly, the grand final was a fairly one-sided 3-0 thrashing that even a weakened EnVyUs lineup could pull off.
At the Ninjas' next event, a Spencer "Hiko" Martin and Aleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev-powered FlipSid3 knocked NiP out of the quarter-finals of ESWC. Losing in the quarter-finals at an event lacking elite-level challengers such as fnatic, TSM, and Virtus.pro (alongside the fact that EnVyUs were imploding at the same event) can't have been part of NiP's longterm gameplan.
Around the same time, and not coincidentally, rumours began to swirl of a possible roster change within the team. Those rumours were quashed by the team and the team's final event of the summer, the FACEIT Stage 2 finals, saw them take fnatic to two close 14-16 losses in the Group B decider (despite not making it out of the group as a result).
|Christopher "GeT_RiGhT" Alesund||25||5||53||1.15||Winner (Col 2014)|
|Patrik "f0rest" Lindberg||27||5||53||1.09||Winner (Col 2014)|
|Adam "friberg" Friberg||23||5||53||1.07||Winner (Col 2014)|
|Richard "Xizt" Landström||24||5||53||1.03||Winner (Col 2014)|
|Aleksi "allu" Jalli||23||1||10||0.99||Final (Kat 2015)|
In terms of majors, the team consist of a legendary four-man core who have made the final of every major to date, including winning one. allu, the most recent addition, performed moderately well at ESL One Katowice 2015, the first major for the Finnish AWPer.
That CLG have risen to the occasional moniker of "second best team in North America" may be something of a success story in and of itself for the team this year. After all, with the successful qualification for ESL One Cologne via the North American qualifier, the Canadian-American team have now twice qualified for majors in 2015.
The summer has also seen CLG given ample opportunity to prove themself as a team, which was on full display when a "clandestinely coached" CLG team shocked fnatic in both teams' ESL ESEA Pro League openers 16-12 on de_mirage. CLG would go on the make the semi-finals through defeating the Brazilians of Keyd Stars, and then lose to regional rivals Cloud9, thereby netting themselves a 3-4th place finish and $25,000 in the process.
CLG actually lost to Renegades in the group stage at ESWC 2015 next in a closely-fought match, a fact which makes both these teams placing in Group A suddenly interesting should an unlikely winners match scenario happen. As a result, CLG were unable to make a mark at ESWC, and fell out in the group stage.
CLG have put in work to improve, with mixed results so far
At CEVO Season 7 finals, a similar trend took place with CLG losing two best-of-three series to their rivals of Cloud9. A side point should be added that this was the event where the team began to experiment with using Stephen "reltuC" Cutler as the IGL in place of Pujan "FNS" Mehta.
Aside from that, the team defeated Liquid 2-1 in the lower finals of Group A in what may be considered for all intents and purposes a fight to determine the second best team of North America (this fight occurring before Liquid's current roster instability).
CLG put in their final appearance of the summer by flying to Germany three weeks before the major to attend IEM Gamescon in Cologne. Using this tournament as a basis for inference is somewhat of a hassle, due to the unique format, however it should be noted that despite a poor-looking 0-4 record, CLG actually took SK, EnVyUs, and TSM to very close maps on three of those losses.
|James "hazed" Cobb||26||1||3||0.99||Group stage (Katowice 2015)|
|Tarik "tarik" Celik||19||1||3||0.95||Group stage (Katowice 2015)|
|Pujan "FNS" Mehta||23||1||3||0.85||Group stage (Katowice 2015)|
|Stephen "reltuC" Cutler||26||1||3||0.78||Group stage (Katowice 2015)|
|Josh "jdm64" Marzano||25||-||-||-||-|
Four of CLG's players took part in the group stage action at ESL One Katowice 2015, whereas jdm64 is a newcomer to the major circuit, having been signed to CLG in June after Peter "ptr" Gurney parted ways from the team.
14:00 NiP vs. CLG
There is much to be gleaned from a match-up of two diverse talents such as these two teams. NiP and CLG have met once before in an offline match-up, coincidentally at the last major, where NiP managed to defeat the North American team 16-7 on de_mirage.
Given the fact that CLG have now gained repute as a strong mirage team, helped no doubt by their largest international victory to date which is the aforementioned best-of-one defeat of fnatic at the ESL ESEA Pro League, the chance of seeing de_mirage as the battleground in question seems slim.
NiP won't make the mistake of viewing CLG as a "rookie team" either, especially considering the abundance of experience this lineup has begun to accrue in the past few months. The best bet for NiP would surely be to try and swing the veto in favour of a match where CLG's aim-power, spearheaded by tarik, is not allowed to carry a best-of-one game, so no de_dust2 for example.
As for NiP, discussing the slumping performances of f0rest, and even more so friberg, in recent events would only be a knock on wood at this point in time. The Swedes better be putting in deathmatch hours if they want to avoid a pug-style sweep in the opener.
The case for Renegades in the past few months is a tale of success mixed with setback. The Cinderella story that propelled the Australians (who were then representing Vox Eminor) to a ESL One Katowice placing over dignitas has long faded, and with a new organisation backing the team along with a likely upcoming move to Los Angeles, the "Kangaroos" have a lot to prove.
The summer season began with Renegades cementing their place as Oceania's best team with a win at ACL Sydney over Immunity (who will also be present at Cologne for the uninformed). The team then made the long haul flight to Montreal in July to compete at ESWC 2015.
Advancing out of groups over CLG was a minor accomplishment, but the team were then flattened by eventual event winners Na`Vi in the quarter-finals. Anyone watching the game would know that the Australian team were not able to get momentum going even on a skillwise level, with Na`Vi out-shooting Chad "SPUNJ" Burchill & co. at every angle.
The road for Renegades is rugged and rough
The ESL One Cologne Asian qualifier in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia was a cakewalk for Renegades and their regional rivals Immunity, and without another team of comparable stature to measure up against, can be seen as a gimmie in terms of offline achievements.
The final event of the summer was IEM Gamescom where, despite a third place finish that looks remarkable on paper, Renegades only managed two map wins over a lacklustre, stand-in led SK Gaming. In fact, Renegades were clobbered in their matches with TSM and mousesports; whereas Cologne Group A neighbour CLG performed much better in terms of round differential (-20 to Renegades' -31) at the event despite a last place finish.
|Aaron "AZR" Ward||22||3||7||0.93||Group stage (3x)|
|Luke "Havoc" Paton||25||3||7||0.93||Group stage (3x)|
|Justin "jks" Savage||19||2||5||0.69||Group stage (2x)|
|Chad "SPUNJ" Burchill||26||3||7||0.50||Group stage (3x)|
|Yaman "yam" Ergenekon||26||-||-||-||-|
Three of the Renegades current lineup have three major attendances under their belts, with three group exits (later addition jks has two). yam, on the other hand, will be entering the major as a rookie. It's no stretch to say that a playoff run would be something of an oasis for this Oceanic team.
"Where would you place TSM in a world ranking?" the therapist asks his patient. The patient, going by the alias of Danish expectations, stumbles on words, unsure of how to answer.
Such an anecdote might convey the strange rollercoaster ride that has been spectating TSM over the past few months. The Danish team kicked off June with style, defeating fnatic 3-1 in the Fragbite Masters Season 4 finals and thereby earning the reputation as "fnatic's kryptonite."
After a month-long hiatus to finish Danish studies, which is not the first time the core of this team has taken a hiatus from the competitive scene for various reasons, TSM were shocked by Keyd Stars in the ESL ESEA Pro League opener for both teams.
The unexpected loss (coupled with fnatic's even more shocking loss to CLG) paired the two titans against each other, with fnatic narrowly edging out TSM and giving the Danes a 7-8th place finish. Needless to say, many analysts and observers were left disappointed, with the much awaited best-of-three showdown between these two rivals yet again kept out of reach.
TSM's players have had a hectic showing this summer
TSM, like many of the other elite teams, forwent attending ESWC 2015 and instead hopped back into the action at the FACEIT Stage 2 finals at DreamHack Valencia. There, with Cloud9 delivering the finishing blow to fnatic in the semifinals, TSM went toe-to-toe with the American team and emerged victorious 2-0 (despite being severely tested on de_cache).
Defending their FACEIT title so successfully made many in the scene—including yours' truly in takeaway #8— once again view TSM as perhaps the best team in the world, with the ESL ESEA Pro League result being seen as an unfortunate freak of nature.
Once again however, TSM returned to its former choking manner with a 7-8th place exit at the Acer Predator Masters finals, losing 1-2 to E-frag.net in the opener and then losing 0-2 to event winners HellRaisers in the lower bracket. The team were seemingly determined to avoid labels and to vex their fans.
Finn "karrigan" Andersen and his men capped off a hectic summer with a moderate performace at IEM Gamescom, however the darkhorse of the tournament EnVyUs (in terms of having never been seen performing offline since its roster change) completely flattened the Danes in the finale (although technically the series was three separate best-of-ones).
|René "cajunb" Borg||25||5||22||1.13||1/2 final (Katowice 2014)|
|Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth||19||5||28||1.07||1/2 final (2x)|
|Nicolai "device" Reedtz||19||5||28||1.06||1/2 final (2x)|
|Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen||22||5||28||1.06||1/2 final (2x)|
|Finn "karrigan" Andersen||25||4||15||0.96||1/4 final (Katowice 2015)|
A few interesting points emerge from TSM's major history. TSM's core of Xyp9x, device, and dupreeh have made it to the playoffs of every major to date (playing under dignitas and CPH Wolves before becoming TSM).
In addition, Xyp9x, often labelled as the crucial support player of TSM, has won 17 clutches (1vsX situations) in his 28 maps at majors, the highest per-map average among players. Xyp9x is joined by teammate device in another notable statistic: of the 28 players who have attended all 5 majors, these two are also among the ten youngest players in Cologne overall (both 19 years of age).
15:25 Renegades vs. TSM
Of the two opening matches for Group A, the likelihood of this game's favourite losing here is much less likely when all things are considered. The two teams met twice at IEM Gamescom, with TSM scoring convincing victories on mirage and dust2.
With a strong map-pool and dynamic CT play, TSM give the Australian side little breathing room when it comes to gaining an early lead. Renegades have shown remarkable resilience in the late-game however, as the team's T-side comeback against CLG at ESWC showed, and if TSM can fall into sloppy ways that were more reminiscent of the 2014 core of this lineup, then there is potential for danger here.
16:50 Winner A1 vs. Winner A2
We have arrived at the place for the most speculation in Group A. Common sense and tradition dictates that the winners match will likely be a showdown of two titans: TSM and NiP. If that were the case, statistical analysis paints a bleak picture for NiP.
At the beginning of 2015 NiP beat TSM 6 times in a row, including in the quarter-finals of Katowice 2015 with the last time being on March 29 at SLTV XII finals. Since then TSM have beat NiP 7 times in a row in 2 best-of-threes and 5 best-of-ones, many of which are convincing. This trend runs parallel with TSM's rise, with the Danish team winning its four events of 2015 in between both majors: CCS Kick-Off Season, FACEIT Stage 1, Fragbite Season 4, and FACEIT Stage 2.
natu will have to keep the Ninjas focused if they make the group's Upper Bracket
These two teams are among only four teams at the whole event to have retained their roster since the past major as well, meaning that tracking the progression of both teams and predicting the outcome should be easier. However, with TSM continuing to slip-up at occasional events (for whatever reason), there is plenty of room for leeway if NiP wake up on the right side of the bed.
If Renegades happen to upset TSM and face up against NiP, there is also a chance for the Australians to make history and advance to the quarter-finals, seeing as how they have split maps with NiP before (at Gfinity Spring Masters II).
CLG, on the other hand, will stand little chance against TSM in light of recent results, with losses on inferno and train. With CLG bringing TSM to a fairly close scoreline on de_train however, it seems as if this map may be a new crux for American teams.
Finally, as previously mentioned, the most unlikely scenario of CLG and Renegades reaching the winners game will provide ample room for a dramatic yet slightly underwhelming game, considering the last time these two teams faced off.
Strangely enough, the European teams chose to not pair these two theoretically weaker outfits against each other at IEM Gamescom, giving us a lack of more recent match-up data.
After the winners match, the groups will be reshuffled and all three teams will head off into the Lower Bracket in four groups of three teams, meaning that further analysis is rendered fruitless.
HLTV.org will continue to release previews for each group of ESL One Cologne 2015 with the histories, match-ups, and major stats of each team explored in depth, so make sure to stay posted to our news page for these previews as they are published.
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