With ELEAGUE's final stages quickly approaching we take a look at the first semi-final featuring top-five teams Natus Vincere and fnatic, analyze both teams' strengths and weaknesses, recent history, head-to-head results and more.
ELEAGUE's $1,400,000 first season is slowly approaching the finish line as we only have three matches left before the champion is crowned.
To quickly remind you of how we got to the last-four stage: since late May, when Group A was played out, a total of 24 teams have fought in six groups for six direct spots in the playoffs.
Cologne left us wondering what would've happened had we gotten the Na`Vi-fnatic semi-final
Second-placed teams and two teams with the highest points out of third places then joined up in the last-chance qualifier to battle it out for the remaining two quarter-final spots.
Finally, last week we were down to the last-eight stage, where we saw favourites fnatic and Natus Vincere take a step further into the playoffs. That is the first semi-final, scheduled for 23:00 on Friday, July 29th, we will be talking about here to analyze their head-to-head history, recent results, outstanding players and more:
|fnatic (#2)||Natus Vincere (#4)|
|Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer||Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács|
|Dennis "dennis" Edman||Denis "seized" Kostin|
|Robin "flusha" Rönnquist||vs.||Ioann "Edward" Sukhariev|
|Jesper "JW" Wecksell||Egor "flamie" Vasilyev|
|Freddy "KRIMZ" Johansson||Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko|
ESL One Cologne promised to give us this exact semi-final and experts were split on how this particular match-up would unfold, though Liquid's sudden uprise robbed us of that possibility and so the dispute will see its verdict given out at ELEAGUE, three weeks later.
olofmeister's return to active duty will mark the beginning of recent results here, as we'll assess how fnatic has fared since the king returned, which is roughly two months ago in time for ELEAGUE's group stage.
While the Swedes showed obvious signs of shakiness upon their best player's return, playing two close Caches with TSM and losing Mirage to the North American squad and FaZe, they still secured first place in Group D to advance to playoffs.
fnatic then travelled to London for ECS Season 1 Finals and had to come back from a significant deficit to take down Cloud9 on Dust2, and once more faced TSM, who again gave flusha and company a run for their money, that time on Cobblestone. fnatic's journey ended in semi-finals, where the uprising G2 destroyed them on Overpass while Dust2 went to 29 rounds.
With their shaken map pool (having lost or nearly lost to big underdogs on four different maps) and overall performance, especially when looking at KRIMZ who recorded his worst LAN performance ever in London with a 0.80 rating, fnatic's chances of surviving the Group of Death in Cologne were questionable.
fnatic's résumé consists of two semi-final finishes since olof came back
Their initial loss to FaZe in Germany saw them pitted against G2 in the elimination match, but the French-Belgian squad faltered in the last minute while KRIMZ played a big part in fnatic's win on Train and also played well in both FaZe encounters. Two comfortable maps against the European mixture later (including Mirage which fnatic had previously lost numerous times to lesser teams including FaZe), the Swedes advanced to playoffs and utterly destroyed Gambit in quarter-finals.
Much like Natus Vincere beforehand, they also fell at the hands of Liquid, though in a manner quite unlike fnatic (or Liquid's previous iteration for that matter). The Swedish lineup reached 13-11 scorelines twice after getting off to bad starts (4-11 on Cache, 5-10 on Cobblestone) but conceded the last five rounds, losing 13-16 on both occasions.
Meanwhile, Natus Vincere attended the SL i-League Invitational #1 in late May with a status of clear favourites as the only other top-ten team present in Kiev was Virtus.pro. The Ukraine-based squad couldn't live up to the expectations however, having dropped to the lower bracket first round right off the bat following a loss to Dobry&Gaming (today's Kinguin).
Their path there was a minefield, where a single misstep could have caused them to exit the competition much earlier than expected, but in the end they went all the way through to the grand final where they belonged from the start, albeit after narrow series with FlipSid3 and GODSENT. The Polish number one proved to be too hard to deal with in the end, as Natus Vincere finished in second place.
flamie's form has dipped recently, but he pulled Na`Vi through the quarters
Zeus' squad then attended ELEAGUE's Group E almost a month later with next to no official matches in between, and similarly to fnatic had trouble with two of the three teams in the group, tying series with Echo Fox (falling short on Dust2) and mousesports (losing Mirage). They picked up in time for playoffs and passed both the Americans and domestic rivals FlipSid3 without much trouble.
FlipSid3 and NiP stood in their way in Cologne's groups and Na`Vi passed both tests, the latter of which went to 16-12 on Cobblestone. Liquid in the quarter-finals proved to be much harder, the American-Ukrainian team took a chance by picking Nuke and strolled through Cobblestone with ease while flamie put in one of his worst maps ever.
Finally, it was time for ELEAGUE playoffs last week. What was expected to be a two-map affair between Na`Vi and Cloud9 went down to the wire, as the favourites barely escaped Overpass with their lives, lost Dust2 convincingly and Cobblestone went to all 30 rounds, but Na`Vi prevailed with flamie putting in solid numbers on the two won maps.
The Natus Vincere-fnatic match-up is famed for its one-sidedness — the exact same lineups currently stand at an 8-2 map score (4-0 in matches) in favour of the Swedes, or 6-2 (3-0 in matches) if we disregard online results.
The first time these two lineups met on LAN was in the grand final of ESL ESEA Pro League Season 2 Finals in mid-December, which gave us one of the most exciting finishes to a best-of-five series, as the last two maps, which went fnatic's way, ended in 16-14 scorelines.
Since then the two squads only played two matches on LAN against each other: a clear-cut series at SL i-League StarSeries XIV Finals in January (Dust2 16-3, Cobblestone 16-7) and a 16-10 Dust2 in IEM Katowice's group stage in April.
In fact, we haven't seen these lineups play each other for almost five months, as they either didn't take part in the same tournaments (some due to GuardiaN's and olofmeister's injuries) or avoided each other when they did.
K - D
Olof 'olofmeister' Kajbjerolofmeister
176 - 126
Robin 'flusha' Rönnquistflusha
133 - 123
Dennis 'dennis' Edmandennis
142 - 127
Jesper 'JW' WecksellJW
134 - 129
Freddy 'KRIMZ' JohanssonKRIMZ
124 - 114
K - D
Egor 'flamie' Vasilyevflamie
138 - 142
Ladislav 'GuardiaN' KovácsGuardiaN
126 - 139
Denis 'seized' Kostinseized
119 - 134
Danylo 'Zeus' TeslenkoZeus
120 - 147
Ioann 'Edward' SukharievEdward
116 - 148
Combined stats from all ten maps between the two lineups, dating back to November 2015
When we take a look at the table above, we can see olofmeister takes over the match-up completely. Out of the ten maps, he only dipped significantly below a 1.00 rating once, on Train in the aforementioned best-of-five.
It comes as no surprise that the two best-performing players from fnatic in this match-up are also the two with the highest opening duel win percentage: dennis recorded 29-18 (62%) and olofmeister is sitting at 39-29 (57%). What's even more impressive is that the latter took part in by far the most opening duels (68), even over the highly-mobile JW who placed second in that regard with 58 opening duels.
While fnatic have four out of five players in the plus in the opening duel ratio, only flamie was able to pass the 50% from Na`Vi's players with 23-20 (53%), provided he understandably has the lowest amount of opening duels from his team.
Lastly, we can take a look at the maps that are the most likely to come out of this series. We can assume fnatic will continue on the path of vetoing Nuke instantly, while Natus Vincere always take out Cache. I imagine the Swedes will be happy to take Dust2, especially considering GuardiaN and company barely played it and lost to both Echo Fox and Cloud9 on it recently, and Na`Vi will take Overpass for themselves.
Overpass and Nuke could be swapped, since fnatic got recently spanked on the former by G2, but they haven't played the new Nuke yet, and so it comes down to whether they're confident enough to let it through in a big match. I can't see Mirage going through, both teams aren't very comfortable with it at the moment, and so it'll come down to either Cobblestone or Train as the decider, depending on who bans Mirage.
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