AZR: "We had a rough couple of months and now we are in the semi-finals and it feels absolutely amazing"
After the team's convincing win (and before AVANGAR took down Vitality in the other quarter-final match of the day), AZR explained the difference between playing in Berlin and in Katowice at the previous Major, how they took the victory on Nuke, and discussed potential semi-final matchups.
How big of a difference was it playing on the stage this time comparing it to the last Major in Katowice, when you lost to MIBR?
Coming into these playoffs we have a lot more experience compared to last time, I think I personally felt a little bit shaky on the stage against MIBR. Back then I remember thinking that I had only been in-game leading for four months and that it was the first Major quarter-final. I was thinking to myself: "F*ck." There was also a "Let's f*cking go", but I could feel I was a little bit nervous, I guess you could say. But coming into this one it was complete focus, everyone was just feeling confident and we came up with a gameplan, executed it today and everyone was feeling good and it showed in-game.
Is it kind of curious that after playing the game for so many years, and after playing on stage so many times, that being in the Major playoff stage puts so much pressure on you? How do you look at it from that perspective, and how did you get over it?
I think that originally I felt that much pressure just because of the in-game leader role. I remember I wasn't so sure of myself to begin with, taking on that role. I knew I had the support of my teammates, they knew I could do it. I just had some doubts at some points, just because I had never been an in-game leader before, that was the biggest thing, I feel like. But now it is just another day, and that is what it comes down to. I have more experience under my belt as a leader now and I don't really have to think about that stuff.
After the group stage, which was kind of rough for your team, you went through and you knew you were going to be playing ENCE. What was the preparation for the ENCE game like and what did you do in off-days?
In the couple of days we had off we watched their games, we obviously played scrims, prepared our game plan against them, that was pretty much it. Just making sure we played the game a lot too, making sure that we had the right stuff leading into the game and making sure our mentality ahead of the game was also at a strong point. Which it has been now... I mean we were at 0-2 at the event to begin with so I think the confidence was quite high right now. It was a lot of preparation, demos, deathmatch, scrims, playing as a team, and going to dinners and stuff together also, so the chemistry between each other was also high.
Tell me a bit about the game plan on Mirage specifically, it is a map you do a lot of the window boosts on the T-side and people know that you do them, but you particularly pulled off one and won a round single-handedly, flanking B. So what was the gameplan like, specifically around that and the mid-control?
Before the game we were talking about it and we literally just played our own game. It wasn't so much specifically for Mirage, just because we feel very confident on the map. I'm always confident to get in there and get the job done and try to make a play or something. We've always been a very confident and strong Mirage team, I feel like. Everything worked pretty well for us, I was reading them pretty well on the T-side, and that's it.
Were you hoping Nuke wasn't going to be picked by ENCE?
We were hoping Nuke wasn't going to be picked, I guess you can say. (laughs) We feel pretty confident on Nuke but the other day when we faced FaZe we obviously had a really rough game. We started CT against them and we were down 2-13 on the CT half, so we had a very rough game. Leading up to today, I guess we were hoping they wouldn't pick Nuke because of that reason, I guess it shook our confidence a little bit. But we had been practicing it the last two days, obviously expecting them to pick it also. It was either going to be that or Train so we were definitely upping our game on those maps.
How does it feel to get the win and move on to the semi-final of a Major? Obviously a first for anyone from your region, you are pushing the achievements a bit further for Australia.
It feels amazing. Leading into this tournament the goal was just to get the playoffs because obviously we had a rough couple of months and now we are in the semi-finals and it feels absolutely amazing. The last couple of days everyone has been putting in a lot of work individually and team-work wise, it seems to be paying off, for sure.
I want to ask you a bit about working with kassad as a coach. The question has been asked a lot, but specifically for this tournament, how did it work out, how did he help you to achieve what you have achieved?
Nothing has really changed compared to what we've usually done. Leading into this event we knew we had to change up our game a lot, mix in more strats, more moves and stuff like that. Because watching previous demos, from the last few months, we knew people had reads on us, we knew we had tells and they were stacking sites against us and stuff like that.
So we had a three-week bootcamp in Poland and we had to make sure we had new stuff, just build a lot of stuff because we didn't want to be read like a book. Me and Aleks (kassad) were working a lot on the strats, watching a lot of demos, I was watching a lot of demos myself just to make sure that I had more ideas as an in-game leader, watching other teams. And Aleks, when it comes to strats - he loves them. He loves making them, watching other teams and stealing strats. As you said before, he loves his command too, so he makes sure we are going to do stuff. He has done a really good job of creating a game plan for the team together with myself. And we always work good off of each other too, we've done a good job.
Give me your thoughts about going further into the playoffs. Vitality or AVANGAR, they are on your side of the bracket. It is the easier side of the bracket, their is grand final potential, what are your thoughts?
Obviously we will be heading into either Vitality or AVANGAR. Both good teams, AVANGAR, have shown some good things at this event, Vitality are always a force to be reckoned with. Leading into it I'm expecting to play Vitality, in the past, they have always been a team that we play really comfortable playing against, even if they have ZywOo. So expecting Vitality and going into it we'd feel very confident, we have a really good track record against them in the past as well. So pretty confident heading into the semi-final.