ESL One Cologne Group D preview
Our last preview prior to ESL One Cologne, taking place from July 5-10 in the LANXESS Arena, is of course of Group D, where D stands for Death as it features SK, fnatic, FaZe and G2.
The second Major of 2016 and the ninth overall is around the corner, kicking off on July 5th with the group stage, which will be played out behind closed doors before fans can watch the playoffs live from July 8th on.
The upper side of ESL One Cologne's groups will be played in best-of-one's and elimination and decider matches in best-of-three's, before top two sides move on to the single-elimination, best-of-three playoffs.
That feeling when you see the outcome of the group draw
Last year's event in the LANXESS arena brought many exciting and memorable moments, including the one above, and the third iteration of the ESL One stop in Cologne promises to match just that.
We have set up a special event page, which will be getting updated constantly as the tournament progresses, make sure you go back there whenever you lose track of happenings at the Major.
On the off chance you missed it, Group D is following:
In the following preview, we're going to do our best to portray the teams' chances at advancing and go over some of the most important information you need to know before seeing the so fittingly lettered Group D unfold.
Keep in mind that we'll be going through the four teams ordered by their current standing in the Team Ranking as opposed to their seed within the group, which you can see above.
SK (Ranked 1st)
|Marcelo "coldzera" David||21||3||18||1.24||Winner (Columbus '16)|
|Lincoln "fnx" Lau||26||1||9||1.10||Winner (Columbus '16)|
|Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo||25||4||24||1.03||Winner (Columbus '16)|
|Fernando "fer" Alvarenga||24||4||24||1.01||Winner (Columbus '16)|
|Epitacio "TACO" de Melo||21||1||9||0.98||Winner (Columbus '16)|
| Wilton "zews" Prado (coach)
The root of the Brazilian team who now represent SK Gaming first showed up on the international scene in late 2014 at ESWC with trio FalleN, fer and fnx alongside today's Immortals' twins Henrique "HEN1" Teles and Lucas "LUCAS1" Teles.
Only two months after their largely unsuccessful journey in Paris, KaBuM.TD, as they were named back then, showed up at MLG X Games Aspen with only FalleN and fer remaining from the previous roster and showed signs of promise by defeating Cloud9 in groups.
That and a quarter-final finish at Clutch Con 2015 (where the Brazilians took a map off fnatic) rocketstarted their journey to their first Major, ESL One Katowice 2015, as they got invited for the offline qualifier and advanced from their group.
Ever since then, KaBuM (shortly after known as KeyD Stars and Luminosity further down 2015) began making a name for themselves by retaining a Legends status at Majors from their very first one to this upcoming one. However, their true success didn't come until they made a total of three lineup changes, the first of which being the addition of coldzera, who would almost immediately catch fans' eyes with stellar play despite his inexperience.
The big shift in results came when fnx was brought back with a reinvigorated motivation together with TACO. Only days after the change, with practically zero preparation, Luminosity showed what is widely regarded the biggest upset run of all time, defeating EnVyUs, NiP and TSM (today's Astralis) on their way to the grand final at FACEIT Stage 3 Finals and even giving fnatic a run for their money at the very end.
Afterwards, Luminosity have climbed up the ladder, making a jump from 14th to 5th place in our Team Ranking in less than two months also due to a semi-final finish at SL i-League StarSeries XIV Finals and silver at DreamHack Open Leipzig.
What is also worth mentioning is that they established an exciting rivalry with Natus Vincere, as the two met numerous times over the course of about six months and their matches always came down to very close results.
Previous Major cycle
They of course improved on their rank even further when they came to Columbus as Legends due to making the top eight in Cluj-Napoca.
Valve honored Columbus MVP coldzera's flying AWP action with a graffiti
Following a three-mapper versus the Poles, Luminosity collided with Liquid and famously came back from two huge deficits, 9-15 and 6-15, to face Natus Vincere in the grand final.
As mentioned before, only fer and FalleN were part of the KeyD Stars roster that attended ESL One Katowice 2015, the first Major to feature a Brazilian team, and finished 5th-8th with wins over CLG and HellRaisers while falling short to fnatic in quarter-finals.
Prior to their second one the lineup moved to the North American organization Luminosity and coldzera was brought at the expense of Caio "zqkS" Fonseca. ESL One Cologne's journey ended up with the same result, a quarter-final finish at fnatic's hands. Throughout it Luminosity played an overtime with EnVyUs, hammered down Kinguin (a previous iteration of today's FaZe) and qualified for playoffs over FlipSid3.
They also kept the Legends status at DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca, 2015's third and last Major, finally taking down fnatic (that time in groups) and Cloud9 for first place before falling short to Natus Vincere, sprouting the rivalry we now know so well.
With Columbus in the picture, the two-man core of the team have four Majors under their belt (three 5th-8th finishes and one title), while coldzera has three (and took over Robin "flusha" Rönnquist's long dominance in rating at Majors with an average of 1.24).
The last two pieces, TACO and fnx, came in at the end of 2015 and so only have the one, which they won as Major rookies. Now of course that isn't strictly speaking true, as fnx holds a Major victory from 2006's ESWC as a part of the old mibr roster.
Achievements since Columbus
Less than two weeks after grabbing their first big international trophy, Luminosity travelled to Malmö for another stacked event, the first DreamHack Masters stop. The Brazilians were big favourites there alongside Na`Vi, but huge upsets from mousesports and especially TYLOO, for whom Malmö was the first event outside of Asia, meant they'd end up at an underwhelming 9th-12th spot.
At the purely North American event, DreamHack Austin, and the big ESL Pro League Season 3 Finals, FalleN's disciples were back to winning ways. The latter tournament may not have gone as smoothly as planned however.
Their first issues with G2's refreshed roster emerged, losing to them in groups before taking revenge in likely the closest best-of-five final we have ever witnessed, as all maps went to double digits with the last, Inferno, going down to the wire in overtime.
Luminosity travelled back to London the next month and avoided G2 despite being in the same group, at least up until the grand final. That time around the Alexandre "bodyy" Pianaro-infused five snatched the title following a surprisingly convincing grand final.
ECS made this group even more ridiculous
What to expect in Cologne
SK are heading into Cologne with a fairly damaged confidence from the latest event, especially considering G2 are the initial match-up that could very well end up being their downfall. But if there is someone who can overcome the issues and come back stronger, it is them.
And it's not just G2 who they have a rich history with in this ridiculous group. There is also fnatic, a team that — alongside Natus Vincere — stood in the way of multiple grand final runs and even titles towards the end of 2015 and at the beginning of 2016.
Let's look at the map possibilities here, unless something changed during the past week, Cache is not expected to come out at any point in any of SK's matches. They have played a fair share of it in the past, but ended up swapping it for Dust2 recently.
Cache out of the picture is great against those two who play it well and frequently, and they have a significant advantage in having experience, even confidence, on Nuke. That way, in best-of-one's they can take out one of the maps they play a lot based on how the match-up feels to them, like Overpass in a veto with G2.
Assessing the potential fnatic meeting is tough, they haven't played each other as much this year, and when they did, they basically only played two maps we could see in their arsenal now - Mirage and Overpass, as the rest was Cache (twice) and Inferno (three times).
In a case where they meet FaZe, which is a strong possibility, Nuke and Overpass are also out of the picture as the two most likely bans of Joakim "jkaem" Myrbostad and company. In a best-of-three scenario, the veto format puts FaZe in immediate danger of one of the aforementioned maps, and even if that doesn't happen, SK are favoured on all of the others.
Truth be told, I have no idea what to expect from SK in Group Death of ESL One Cologne, or from any other team in the group for that matter. The pocket pick Nuke and insta-ban Cache plays well into all three teams, making them slight favourites, but the random veto format could very well end up costing them a spot in the playoffs.
If it doesn't, and this counts for anyone from the big three, they're very likely to make it far at the Major.
G2 (Ranked 2nd)
|Richard "shox" Papillon||24||8||43||1.10||Winner (DHW '14)|
|Edouard "SmithZz" Dubourdeaux||27||8||42||0.96||Winner (DHW '14)|
|Cédric "RpK" Guipouy||26||4||13||0.95||Group stage (4x)|
|Adil "ScreaM" Benrlitom||22||6||29||0.93||Semi-final (DHW '13)|
|Alexandre "bodyy" Pianaro||19||-||-||-|
Due to numerous French-Belgian shuffles between the former Titan side and LDLC (now EnVyUs), as well as a few individual changes, we can't really consider any combination of three players the pure core of G2.
From the original VeryGames powerhouse, considered the second-best team in the world at the time, that moved to Titan at the end of 2013, the trio of shox, SmithZz and ScreaM is the same, and stayed that until the latter half of 2014, when the famous LDLC-Titan shuffle came in and the entire trio disconnected from Kévin "Ex6TenZ" Droolans and Kenny "kennyS" Schrub.
At the end of 2014, an entirely different roster to what it is now brought back RpK from inactivity, who took a long time to adjust following a two-year hiatus. The aforementioned trio joined back together in late 2015 following two separate lineup changes: SmithZz and shox came back from Envy, while ScreaM finished an era of trying out the mixed-European team Kinguin and returned to his roots as well.
Whatever the changes were, Titan were never the 2013 powerhouse during 2014 and 2015 despite picking up a high placing here and there (two DreamHack Invitational titles, runner-ups at Gfinity G3, IOS Pantamera and ESL Pro League 1).
Upon joining up with the Spanish organization G2 eSports, shox's squad registered a pattern of a slow but steady improvement in early 2016, but in the end the only piece that stayed ever since transferring from CS:S, Ex6TenZ, had to go for the team to take an almost immediate turn in results with bodyy, formerly of LDLC White.
G2's latest lineup change flipped everything on its head
Previous Major cycle
Placing 9th-12th at DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca, G2 had to go through the offline qualifier prior to MLG Columbus. Defeating Brazilian number two Tempo Storm and FlipSid3 in the group assigned to them, on the way to the Major itself they were.
Losing 1-16 to the latter in the initial match, the roster still featuring Ex6TenZ had their confidence shattered, but gained some of it back by destroying Cloud9 in the elimination match 16-3.
Another attempt at the Poles went to three maps, but G2 suffered another group stage exit after all in Columbus, which was the Belgian's last event with them.
Only the former EnVyUs duo have attended all eight Majors, the first three of which were with VeryGames/Titan before their move to LDLC. With the French organization, shox and SmithZz grabbed the gold at DreamHack Winter 2014. Transferring to EnVyUs, the ESL One Katowice 2015 journey ended in semi-finals.
Since then, both players have attended the remaining three Majors under the Titan/G2 banner but bombed out in groups in each of them.
The only remaining Belgian, ScreaM, only has six, five of which are the same as the aforementioned duo's - the first three and the last two. During his tenure in Epsilon and Kinguin, he missed out on two in between — DreamHack Winter 2014 and ESL One Katowice 2015 — but helped Kinguin reach the Legends status at ESL One Cologne 2015.
RpK's had only been in one team in his carreer, with a two-year pause, and is the only man of the current roster who attended Majors but never advanced to playoffs.
The latest addition bodyy has only ever been in the third-best French team before he got the big offer, and as such has never attended a Major and is one of the 10 rookies qualified for ESL One Cologne 2016.
Achievements since Columbus
After Columbus and the shift in leadership, sacking Ex6TenZ with shox partially taking over, the results didn't come immediately. It's understandable though, considering DreamHack Masters Malmö took place only a week after the change.G2 exited the Swedish $250,000 tournament in last place following stunning losses to CLG and GODSENT.
Qualifying for ESL Pro League Season 3 Finals by the skin of their teeth (coming out on top of a tiebreaker scenario with Natus Vincere, G2 were looking to show what the team was really made of, which they most certainly did.
On their way to RpK's first grand final in over a year, G2 took down Luminosity and OpTic in groups. fnatic, with John "wenton" Eriksson standing in, had placed second in the groups, and so the two were set on a collision course in semi-finals. A great performance from shox, RpK and ScreaM pushed them over the top in the three-mapper.
In the best-of-five grand final, shox and ScreaM pulled most of the weight again, but it wasn't enough to edge Luminosity despite taking it to all five double-digit maps with Inferno coming down to an overtime.
Latest tournaments made us wonder whether it's late 2013 again
ELEAGUE's Group B pitted them against Selfless, who came surprisingly close, NiP, whom G2 defeated convincingly, and OpTic. Topping the group with six wins, G2 struck down Selfless but disappeared in the re-match with the Swedes in the grand final.
A month later it was offline qualifier time, where G2 kicked it off with two strong wins over TYLOO and HellRaisers. Losing round three and four (one of which being a 1-16 Dust2 with mousesports) meant it would come down to the very last round of the Swiss system. shox took matters into his own hands and nearly single-handedly powered through Cloud9 to qualify.
Their very last event is perhaps the most important one going into Cologne, ECS Season 1 Finals. Once again put into the same group with LG, G2 didn't even meet them due to losing to Liquid in the initial round, but they destroyed NiP in the elimination match and took revenge on the Americans.
Once again fnatic were in their way to the grand final, this time with Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer back, but the result was the same as the last time in London. The shox-led roster avenged their past selves and took the trophy, sending a strong message right before the Major.
What to expect in Cologne
Based on their recent results, especially the two grand finals in London, G2 have lots of confidence going for them. ScreaM has forcefully came back into his own, grabbing an MVP title at ECS and generally playing very well at the last four events.
shox has been even stronger and seems to be matching his late 2013 form, when he was at a point considered the best player in the world, never falling below 1.20 rating at all events with the new lineup, Malmö excluded.
Even RpK seems to be enjoying the change very much, as the past three months saw him jump from an average performance to an above-average 1.08 rating. Both bodyy and SmithZz are slightly below average, but act as a support system for the hard-hitting trio.
In the initial match-up, G2 could force SK to remove Overpass, which they won the last two times, alongside Cache. Their own instant ban is Mirage, a solid map of the Brazilians, but I'll be very curious to see if they'll have the guts to take the risk of going to Nuke.
G2's map statistics over the last three months
Last time they vetoed Train second, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it again, giving Nuke a possible one in two chance of getting through, with one of Dust2 and Cobblestone. All bets are off on all of those maps, Dust2 was split the last two times they played it and the one Cobblestone went G2's way.
If they ever face fnatic, Nuke should help them get an edge in the veto, and the Swedes will likely be afraid of Overpass, which hasn't been great for them lately and G2 crushed them on it at ECS. olofmeister and company will be in trouble if it goes to a best-of-three, depending on if G2 are ready to pick Nuke at a Major.
Interestingly enough, G2 have always had problems facing fnatic in the past, but in the past three series G2 came out on top of five different maps, though on Cache and Train wenton was still standing in.
fnatic (Ranked 4th)
|Robin "flusha" Rönnquist||22||8||62||1.21||Winner (3x)|
|Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer||24||8||60||1.13||Winner (2x)|
|Freddy "KRIMZ" Johansson||22||8||60||1.08||Winner (2x)|
|Dennis "dennis" Edman||25||5||35||1.07||Semi-final (2x)|
|Jesper "JW" Wecksell||21||8||62||1.05||Winner (3x)|
| Viktor "vuggo" Jendeby (coach)
Much like every other team in this group, fnatic have a very rich history, in their case more so of titles rather than lineup changes. JW and flusha have been together from the start, having been part of the original Epsilon lineup who were offered a spot on the legendary organization in the latter half of 2013.
Together with Jonatan "Devilwalk" Lundberg, Andreas "znajder" Lindberg and Markus "pronax" Wallsten, fnatic became the first Major's winners, but other than that they were unable to find significant success over nearly the next year.
Devilwalk stepped down while znajder was shown the exit door, and in came an ex-LGB duo KRIMZ and olofmeister, who weren't considered hugely successful players at the time. The change proved to be a fruitful one to say the least, as shortly afterwards, fnatic would go on to become the world's best team, winning SLTV StarSeries X, FACEIT League Season 2, ESWC 2014 and Fragbite Masters Season 3 across the latter half of 2014.
olofmeister's injury slowed fnatic down marginally
During 2015 their success continued, picking up a total of nine titles with the same lineup, earning the honors of being called the best CS:GO lineup of all time by select experts, while olofmeister was regarded the world's best player and three of his teammates made top 10 in HLTV.org's Top 20 players of 2015.
In late 2015, in-game leader pronax, who gave up the role to flusha a few times over the two years, stepped down from fnatic and was replaced by dennis who came in from G2. The Swedish superstar-filled team took little time to go back to winning ways, even setting a streak of six titles in a row prior to MLG Columbus, including four $250,000 tournaments: FACEIT Stage 3 Finals, ESL ESEA Pro League Season 2 Finals, SLTV StarSeries XIV Finals and IEM Katowice.
Previous Major cycle
fnatic entered MLG Columbus as Legends on the back of a quarter-final finish at DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca. olofmeister's injury came to light during that time and he definitely wasn't up to par with his 2015 to early 2016 performance.
While fnatic still made quarter-finals, beating Splyce and FaZe in their group convincingly, hints of them not being in their best shape came there already, as Liquid came out on top of an overtime battle for first place.
Astralis awaited them in the round of eight, and the Swedes could barely scrape together 10 rounds on Overpass before dropping Cache 5-16, while olofmeister recorded one of his worst performances over his career, an overall average of a 0.99 rating.
The injured player announced taking a break, not knowing for certain when he'd be coming back due to complicated health issues.
LGB actually made it to the first one as well, and advanced to playoffs at the expense of an early version of Natus Vincere.
For the third, olofmeister and KRIMZ were already part of fnatic, but dennis was left out as LGB disbanded. For the remainder of 2014, he couldn't secure a place on a top-tier team and missed out on ESL One Cologne and DreamHack Winter that year, as well as ESL One Katowice 2015.
In mid-2015 he joined up with Kinguin, who later became G2, and helped them become Legends at ESL One Cologne, as well as place in the top four at Dreamhack Open Cluj-Napoca.
In fact, all of fnatic's current roster have made playoffs at all majors they attended. The organization holds three CS:GO Major titles, one runner-up finish and four 5th-8th placings, one of which being the infamous withdrawal from DreamHack Winter 2014 following the drama known as "boostgate".
flusha is a Major performer
Achievements since Columbus
After rumours of olofmeister coming back spread around, fnatic confirmed the great news prior to ELEAGUE's Group D. Their start there was slow, letting TSM to 13 rounds on Cache and losing Mirage to FaZe despite delivering a 16-0 blow to them on Cobblestone. Topping the group, fnatic defeated TSM in semi-finals in a fairly close manner, but had little to no trouble closing FaZe 2-0 in the grand final.
Interestingly enough, that wasn't the last time TSM took fnatic to a close result, as they met at ECS Season 1 Finals again and it came down to all 30 rounds on Cobblestone. Prior to that, Cloud9 took a stab at them as well, but didn't manage to close Dust2. Their downfall ended up being the same as the previous time in London with wenton though, adding another 3rd-4th finish at the hands of G2.
What to expect in Cologne
There is no denying that fnatic hasn't fully recovered from the two olofmeister-less months, and neither has he. His ELEAGUE performance was vintage, and so was his Dust2 against G2 at ECS, but he was quite inconsistent in London, which showed in the 16-2 beating they took on Overpass from the French.
One thing I believe we can count on is flusha at Majors. Up until Columbus, he had the highest Major rating out of everyone, and even after it he's trailing coldzera only slightly at an amazing 1.21. In a recent interview with Tomi "lurppis" Kovanen, he admitted putting in much more work prior to Majors compared to other tournaments.
What does raise red flags is olofmeister's snus-chewing sidekick, as my literate, meme-chucking colleague Michal "stich" Malachowski once described him. KRIMZ has had off tournaments in the past, but never this frequently. He only put up an average 1.00-rating performance at ELEAGUE, and dove to 0.87 at ESL Pro League Season 3 Finals and even more so to 0.80 at ECS Season 1 Finals.
Another fact not going well for them are their two latest encounters with G2, who beat them on four out of five maps in two series, with the fifth map being the omitted Inferno.
fnatic's map statistics over the last three months
During the last three-month period, their Overpass went scubadiving, only winning one online against Natus Vincere out of five in total, and Mirage hasn't been great either with losses to teams such as TSM, FaZe and Dignitas. The rest seems reasonably fine, especially Cobblestone and Cache, their most played maps.
Then again they seemingly don't have Nuke to fall back on, which gives fnatic three potential bans and they can only use two in best-of-one's and one in best-of-three. Considering both of their biggest opponents in G2 and SK seem to play it, this group really isn't looking good for the Swedes.
I'm not quite sure what to take away from fnatic at this point, they've been dealt a poor hand when olofmeister had to take a break and were basically forced to attend less events. I have to feel like they'll be the odd one out unless they get lucky in the random vetos or have secretly put in loads of work on Nuke. All of this is made under the assumption that the same level of fnatic will turn up at the Major, which definitely doesn't have to be the case, it is fnatic after all and they've learned a bit of magic from their domestic rivals.
FaZe (Ranked 16th)
|Joakim "jkaem" Myrbostad||22||3||17||1.06||Semi-final (Cluj '15)|
|Philip "aizy" Aistrup||20||5||18||1.03||Semi-final (Cologne '14)|
|Fabien "kioShiMa" Fiey||21||7||45||1.02||Winner (2x)|
|Håvard "rain" Nygaard||21||5||24||0.96||Semi-final (Cluj '15)|
|Ricardo "fox" Pacheco||29||3||19||0.96||Semi-final (Cluj '15)|
| Robert "RobbaN" Dahlström (coach)
That particular roster was heavily criticized from the get-go for the lack of leadership compared to the firepower they possessed, as many experts doubted the team could find its way to international success.
During the first few months after creation they attended several significant international tournaments but never passed groups, though some of the potential shined through at FACEIT Stage 2 Finals with a series win over Virtus.pro and taking Natus Vincere to three maps.
It wasn't until they attended the infamous and massively ironical Gaming Paradise when they reached the very top, defeating Titan and Natus Vincere twice. Shortly afterwards, ScreaM decided to go back to a French-speaking team in Titan and jkaem came in.
At the start of 2016 they rebranded once more, moving to a Call of Duty organization FaZe Clan and added RobbaN as coach. Fast forward three months and a few more group stage exits (DreamHack Leipzig, IEM Katowice, MLG Columbus), Maikelele's place was taken by the Envy dropout kioShiMa.
Previous Major cycle
MLG Columbus featured FaZe as one of the Legends due to their successful semi-final placing at DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca.
Still with Maikelele in the roster, FaZe stepped into the last Major on the wrong foot, falling short to Liquid 11-16 on Cache. Splyce was a walk in the park for them, but fnatic was really not as FaZe lost their status following a group stage exit.
fox and rain had both attended the last three with this roster, but the latter was also part of a Norwegian squad called London Conspiracy (later on known as LGB), with whom he took part in ESL One Cologne 2014 and ESL One Katowice 2015. jkaem can boast with three Majors, the first of which being alongside his old teammate rain in LGB.
As the second latest addition, aizy only played at Columbus under the same banner as the trio above, but actually has four more under his belt from his tenures in various Scandinavian teams, the very first three (under Xapso, 3DMAX and dignitas) and DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca 2015 (dignitas again).
kioShiMa brings loads of Major experience to the table
The most Major-experienced player on the squad is naturally kioShiMa, who is also a two-time winner (DreamHack Winter 2014 and DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca), a runner-up (ESL One Cologne 2015), a semi-finalist (ESL One Katowice 2015) and quarter-finalist (ESL One Cologne 2014).
Achievements since Columbus
They didn't qualify for two of the biggest leagues' finals, ESL Pro League Season 3 and ECS Season 1, as they grabbed $20,000 from each with a 7th and 6th place in the online phase.
Their appearance in the third big league, ELEAGUE, was a solid appearance from them, disregarding the fact they suffered a 16-0 hammering from fnatic. They won all of their maps outside of that in the round-robin, though TSM got very close on both occasions. Semi-finals dealt them the Dignitas card, which proved to be much tougher than the round-robin encounter, but onto the final they went after 86 rounds across three maps. The re-match with fnatic didn't go quite as well despite a close Cache, as Cobblestone was ahead and we know how that went the first time.
FaZe made a good account of themselves at the offline qualifier however, being one of the two teams who made it through with a 3-0 record alongside mousesports, winning matches against three other teams who eventually qualified — Dignitas, FlipSid3 and Gambit —, finishing at a convincing +24 round difference.
What to expect in Cologne
If this was any other group, any other whatsoever, I would have said FaZe have a very good chance at advancing to playoffs. But it isn't, and they have to deal with three teams currently residing in the top four of our Team Ranking.
One thing going for them are the best-of-one's in the upper part, and I see that as their only chance — slim, but a chance — of going through.
The initial match-up in fnatic is likely their best match-up out of the three overall, but it's still grim. Overpass is a map FaZe always veto, which is actually a map fnatic has performed on poorly lately and so the Swedes won't be too worried about it. Meanwhile, fnatic are most likely taking out Nuke and Mirage, the former of which is also a no-go for FaZe.
FaZe's map statistics over the last three months
That will allow RobbaN to get rid of Cobble, which they had bad results on the last few times in the match-up, leaving us with Cache, Train and Dust2. Cache was reasonably close at ELEAGUE, though it doesn't seem to be very strong for FaZe overall, the last and only Train went their way convincingly (online and with Niclas "PlesseN" Plessen however) and is currently FaZe's most successful map outside of Mirage, and we haven't seen the two play Dust2 against each other this year.
If they manage to go through to the winners' match, Overpass and Nuke need to be taken out versus either G2 or SK, and this is where the problem lies. G2 would definitely take out FaZe's best map, Mirage, and likely Train as well, which sounds like trouble for the RobbaN-led squad. Meanwhile, SK will happily get rid of Cache and can go wherever they please with two more bans between the last four maps.
I think we know where this is going, the randomizer can be FaZe's best friend or worst enemy, but whichever way it'll go, there's little hope for kioShiMa and company, and in best-of-three's this will get much worse.
If I had to guess how the ridiculously-impossible-to-call group will play out, I would say SK and G2 will bank on their ability to play Nuke, whether they do in the end or not, and if they don't get screwed by the random generator they have the biggest shot at staying alive on Thursday.
There are still a few pieces we have yet to release prior to ESL One Cologne. If you've missed one of our previews, make sure to give them a read as well:
We have also conducted several interviews thus far:
Damian "daps" Steele: "focus on getting out of groups" Kristian "k0nfig" Wienecke: "Main goal is top eight" Jacob "pyth" Mourujärvi: "We will definitely recover" Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo: "Have to beat them all"
You can follow HLTV.org's Milan "Striker" Švejda on Twitter