The Cathedral of Counter-Strike

ESL One Cologne will always stand out on the calendar, not just for us but I think for every player. It’s a very special event.

I know that I will never forget it.

Playing in front of the German fans is obviously very important to us, but what made it more special is that we have failed so many times to make it to that stage.

Another aspect that some might not think about is the timing of it.

It’s always right at the end of what you might consider the first half of the season before players take breaks. That means you have teams there that have been playing for months and getting to the peak of their performance.

It’s almost like every other tournament is leading up to Cologne.

When I was on Mousesports in 2015 we played in the studio, but we couldn’t make it to the playoff stage. We were able to see just how amazing the crowd was, and from that point, I knew I wanted to be on that stage.

As a team, we understood that it was going to be really tough for us to get through the first stage to make it into the playoffs. It wasn’t clear to us how strong we were compared to the competition, but the important thing was that we were confident in our own ability.

Our practice before Cologne 2018 actually wasn’t that great. Fortunately, we were able to learn a lot from Belo Horizonte.

The week leading up to Cologne was mainly spent learning from our mistakes there. We knew that we were not a very consistent team, and really we thought we needed a bit more time to reach our highest level.

Our opening game was against Team Liquid, and they had beaten us twice at Belo Horizonte in some close games. We wanted to show that we had improved since then. We weren’t feeling much pressure because we knew that if we lost, we would get another chance in the Best-Of-threes. Luckily we got Dust 2 in the veto and it wasn’t a tough win for us.

I can’t explain why, but the day after that we just didn’t turn up. Fnatic absolutely crushed us. There is never a good reason to dwell on a result like that, so it was actually a positive that we could just forget about it and focus on the upcoming matches.

With each passing game, we felt like we were getting a lot better. When the playoffs came around, there was a belief in the team that we could surprise some people there.

When we met G2 Esports in the quarter-final it was quite strange because they had caused some upsets as well to get there. No one was really sure how the match was going to go.

In credit to G2, they were really well prepared for the game. The map veto swung in our favour, and once we got the momentum and the crowd behind us, the victory was inevitable.

I remember telling the guys backstage before the game to enjoy the experience. Of course, winning is important and the team was confident that we would win the match, but I had to remind everyone that it might be a once in a lifetime experience for us.

The match itself we treated like a group stage game, in terms of our attitude and our communications.

Keeping calm and staying relaxed is very important to us as a team and how we operate. If your communication is not good, then your execution and your use of utility is not good, and that is one of our strongest areas.

FaZe came into the tournament with a chance to win the $1,000,000 from the Intel Grand Slam. They had also just won Belo Horizonte, so they were coming in on a definite high.

It was a little tougher to keep the calm atmosphere in the team before this game. We hadn’t faced FaZe in a while, and at this point, the final is only one series away. 

We had a rough start on Dust 2, and for a second it looked like they might be getting away from us. Our comeback to take us into Overtime was crucial. Even though we lost the map, it helped us realize that we could challenge them, even if they were in good form and playing on a big stage.

After the victory on Train, I think we all believed that we were going to win the series.

I remember they surprised us a few times with some force buys and how they played the map, but in the clutch moments we always came out on top. Once we got on our roll we were kind of unstoppable.

When things are going badly for us it’s not just me or one player that brings the team together and gets them firing again. I do some things but also our coach, Legija, and Tabsen as well. We are the most vocal but it’s a team effort certainly. We always try to maintain the calm atmosphere in the team, especially when things are getting tough.

Before the final, we did what we always do. We didn’t treat it any differently. It’s very important to us that we don’t overdo the preparation. 

Nex and I went to the practice room to watch some demos and play deathmatch. Tabsen actually went home because he lives in Cologne. Everyone just did their normal thing.

We knew that we were as prepared for the game as we could be, so deviating from our usual routines would have been unnecessary really.

Obviously the final was disappointing for us. Na’Vi is definitely a strong team, and players like S1mple and Electronic can completely take over maps if they are in good form.

I felt like we could have made a comeback in the final, at least on Inferno.

We had a strong T side, despite the bad start. I was upset that we didn’t have the chance to come back properly. In the later stages of the game, they had 14 rounds and we had eight or nine I think, and we won a half buy. That’s when we usually start our big comebacks. But Na’Vi just didn’t let it happen at all.

That was the most upsetting part to me. Na’Vi were strong and didn’t even give us a chance to get ourselves back into the game.

It wasn’t all bad. It gave us a lot of confidence, because getting to the final of IEM Cologne as a young team is a very good performance from us. We didn’t consider ourselves superstars or anything, and we still don’t, but it showed that we were on the right path.

When Cologne rolls around on the calendar again next year, I hope we have continued this improvement and we’re in a good position to repeat that run. And who knows, maybe next year we can go one step further if we perform at our best.

Photos: BIG and ESL

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