NAF: "TACO's news ignited a fire in us; we are going to play for him"
The semi-final series against Natus Vincere saw Liquid escape 16-13 over the Ukrainian side on Dust2 before swinging their momentum into Overpass, sealing the 16-9 map victory and 2-0 series sweep to deny Na`Vi's chances of a fourth consecutive grand final appearance.
After Liquid's thrilling win over Na`Vi, we sat down with NAF to chat about the team's semi-final performance over Natus Vincere, the upcoming "third time's the charm" grand final against Astralis, how the news of the death of Epitacio "TACO" de Melo's father affected the team, and more.
Prior to the start of this series, Na`Vi had a little bit more time to prepare for their semi-final match than your team were able. How did preparations go going into your series? How was the team's atmosphere?
We played Na`Vi at ESL Pro League Season 7 Finals and 2-0'd them so we kind of had a sense of playing against them. We knew how to shut down s1mple and made sure he didn't get a lot of picks back then. Playing them here in Atlanta, we had that same feeling, like, we just felt confident. I don't know, there is something about our team that makes us feel confident against them.
Our preparation was just looking at the maps and figuring it would be either Overpass or Mirage that they were going to pick. For us, we were like..."meh".. sort of skeptical on what we wanted to pick, but in the end, we went with Dust2 because we know it's one of their weaker maps, but Dust2 is also not a confident map for us as well. I think we were fairly confident on both maps since we had fixed Overpass a little bit and we had played a lot of 'officials' on that map. I don't think they really knew what we were doing on it. So, yeah, that really helped a lot.
With this win on Dust2 means that Na`Vi's losing streak on this map grows to six on LAN. How much of a confidence booster was that win going into Overpass to secure the series?
Winning Dust2 gave us a lot of confidence. We are a huge momentum team, so if we are hitting our shots, winning those clutch rounds, then we are strong because when teams slip up and give us those rounds they're going to be screwed for the next few rounds. So, yeah, they started coming back on us and we got a little worried, but we managed to close it out.
I guess they felt a little down. I remember seeing them outside and they seemed a little out of it. Na`Vi is a team that tends to tilt a little bit, so, we were happy for ourselves knowing they were tilted going into the second map. We then just went into Overpass with pure confidence.
After beating them 2-0 at the Pro League Finals, you did the same here and stopped their grand final appearance streak. Do you maybe think that your squad is their kryptonite?
I want to say we are their kryptonite because even myself - I feel like there is something about playing against Na`Vi, we know how to play against them. To me, I don't see s1mple as the star-studded player. He was just in the middle of the pack, not making any insane plays in this best-of-three, just like he had not in the best-of-three at EPL. I don't remember him doing that much, although he still had good stats and everything. He didn't make any sick plays or anything like that. We were preventing him from making those sick plays, or getting any clutch rounds, or playing in the positions he likes to play in. So, yeah, we are just that confident against them.
The team has been playing without zews this whole tournament; however, Joka has been behind you guys thus far. How much has he been a factor for you guys this tournament so far?
Ah, well, Joka use to play Source back in the day, that's how I knew him before, but he doesn't really know that much. He's always there being positive because, obviously, we are a team that gets a little bit down when our opponent wins a clutch or we lose rounds that we really shouldn't have, so we tend to get a little down. Joka is there to crack a joke or something like that... It's just nice to have Joka behind us - he definitely does a lot for us that we really appreciate.
Now your team is going head-to-head against Astralis in the grand final. This will be the third time this year you have met them in a grand final. From your past two experiences, how is the team going to approach this grand final?
I'm not entirely sure, to be honest. Whenever I play Astralis, I just feel very lost and don't know what to do. They are a very strong team that comes up with a lot of stuff because on Mirage, for example, they showed some stuff that I had never seen before. All of their players are insane... even gla1ve... their in-game leader, who can even carry games... I think our biggest issue is playing against device. He's really feeling it out there - just a very good AWPer, rifler, and can exploit anything we try to do.
Now, going into this grand final, we definitely need to bring a different approach. I'm not sure if that means we need to anti-strat more or we just need to play a completely different style. I don't know, we are definitely going into the grand final a lot different than we did in the past.
What does this to do the teams' morale to reach the grand finals before going into the player break?
Obviously it's very high because we have made multiple finals in the past, but I'm honestly disappointed that we aren't winning, like, winning means a lot for all of us, even for me. We just want to win, and finishing runners-up mean nothing. I guess it's nice because of the prize money... but I want to lift the trophy. Going into the player break - I want to say we are happy of what we have achieved since the start of the season, and obviously, it would be amazing if we could end this season by lifting a trophy.
The last thing I wanted to touch on briefly was that prior to the semi-finals there was some unfortunate news regarding TACO. It didn't seem to affect your teammate or the team in general, so was this extra motivation to reach the grand final?
We are very sad to have heard the news, but it also ignited a fire in us. We are going to play for TACO, and we are going to try to win for him and we will do everything in our power to make TACO happy. We are going to do everything for him
I'm so happy that we won (smiles). TACO played amazing and he definitely has some fire in him to win as well. I think everyone played great, great calls from nitr0, great shots from Twistzz and everyone else. I'm just happy with how well we played.