NAF: "[The EPL Finals and ESL One Cologne] are going to determine who the real #1 is and who the top teams are"
NAF's Liquid had a hiccup on their first map of the ESL Pro League Season 9 FInals, falling 13-16 to North on Dust2. They started their lower-bracket run on day two with a victory over TYLOO in two maps, and will now go on to face HellRaisers for a spot in the LB final.
We chatted with NAF about their first match against North, getting knocked down to the lower bracket, where he ranks the world's top teams, what it would mean to play the aforementioned Astralis in Montpellier, and whether Liquid can keep their momentum going to back-to-back tournaments.
You played North on Dust2 and lost 13-16, a close match, but you were favored to win. What happened?
We had played North previously, at DreamHack Masters, so we kind of knew what to expect, but going into that game it was clear that they did a little bit more homework and prep. We saw that they were giving up Long a lot, and I'm usually a passive Long player on T side, so they started playing three Short and doing a bunch of aggressive stuff on other parts of the map, so they did their research and played great. With valde as their captain, it's something I haven't really seen before from their previous leaders, and I think he's doing an amazing job so props to him and the team and their coach.
What is it you've seen that has changed?
The way they play, their style is a little bit different. I'm not entirely sure, but it seems like when we played them it was a bit different compared to every other North. Not sure about specifics, but it just feels different playing them.
The TYLOO match was pretty straightforward, did you expect to be so dominant, particularly on their pick, Mirage?
Losing to North was a wake-up call for us, and TYLOO is a team that can definitely upset teams that aren't playing their A-game and can catch them off-guard, so we knew that we needed to wake up and go into it firing on all cylinders and making sure we're not making any mistakes or yelling at each other [laughs]. So yeah, I just knew, I had never lost to TYLOO, so I was just like "Never lost to them, never losing to them, let's just 2-0 them, let's smash them, let's go!"
You're now going through the hard route, the lower bracket. Only one team has lifted the trophy after losing the first best-of-one with this format...
I guess we'll be the second! [laughs]
Is that what you think?
I mean, yeah... All right, I'm going to be completely honest. Right now I truly do not believe there's a #1 team in the world. Any team can beat any team, and obviously we're one of the better teams, but there honestly is no such thing as a #1 team in the world right now. Every team can beat anyone, so we just need to keep on going and treat every game like it's not going to be an easy one. Every game is going to be hard no matter who we play, we just have to battle through.
That being said, a few of the top teams are missing here, so it's a bit about Astralis and Liquid. If you meet them here, will it define something?
Of course, a lot of people were thinking that, so I'm honestly hoping we play them and that we can put on a good game for the fans and prove who the better team is right now. I'd be looking forward to it if we cross paths with Astralis and I think it'd be an amazing game, for sure.
If you beat them here in a best-of-three, would that make you #1? If you can finally get that big BO3 win against them in an important match.
Yeah, it'd lean more towards us being the real #1, but like I said, with any other team... like ENCE, I think ENCE could be #1 easily, even FaZe a little bit, although they have more things to work on. It's up in the air right now, this tournament is huge, especially with Cologne right around the corner... these two tournaments are going to determine who the real #1 is and who the top teams are.
You've been putting up good results and getting those tournament wins, do you think you can keep it up? Is it something you can keep doing or do you feel some fatigue?
Individually, I think going LAN to LAN is the best in terms of practice, you learn a lot more there than just playing scrims, so I have no issues going to back-to-back LANs. Some people may think that we need to take a break, some others may think that we have to go guns blazing to all the LANs, but we're a young team, we're motivated all of the time, constantly playing Counter-Strike even when we're not scrimming, so I don't see any issues with us going to back-to-back LANs.