What Can We Expect From the IEM Cologne Playoffs?

Six out of 24 teams have survived the fight for playoffs. IEM Cologne has separated the average from the... Fabio | 15. July 2021

Six out of 24 teams have survived the fight for playoffs. IEM Cologne has separated the average from the best and now only the strongest contenders remain. NaVi, Gambit, and Virtus.pro represent Eastern Europe. Will Astralis, FaZe, and G2 set themselves on top or will we witness CIS dominance once again?

Early on in the tournament, we had to wave goodbye to Evil Geniuses and OG. But the German favorites, BIG, also failed to make playoffs. At least they managed to place ahead of Complexity, mousesports, and Liquid in their group.

Everyone who has been following CS:GO in recent months should assume that Natus Vincere and Gambit Esports are top favorites. So it doesn’t come as a surprise to have them in the playoffs. However, we really didn’t expect Astralis to perform this well and beat out even Heroic!


Ever since the departure of Nikola “NiKo” Kovač, FaZe haven’t been able to achieve anything. Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken and Finn “karrigan” Andersen couldn’t change anything about it. After Marcelo “coldzera” David has been moved to the bench and Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer has been re-added to the roster, they immediately went out in last place of BLAST. The team’s morale was at rock bottom.

It’s widely known that FaZe are serial chokers. At IEM Cologne, this threatened their survival once again. They mounted two comebacks against Astralis, but both failed just shy of the finish line. On Nuke, they dueled across three overtimes, and only their nerves kept them from securing the victory.

So they headed for the Lower Bracket again. The last-place finish was inching ever closer, but they finally pulled through versus Spirit. A loss on the first map was followed by two strong map wins, in which FaZe proved their strong mentality. Later, they achieved masterful comebacks against Vitality and even kept the Frenchmen from making a comeback themselves. Piece by piece, they seem to be tearing down their mental blocks. On a 2-1 scoreline, they beat Heroic to qualify for the IEM Cologne playoffs.


Prior to IEM Cologne, everyone would have listed Gambit and Natus Vincere. The two teams have been in the Grand Finals of lots of events recently. But now, they’re going into offline battle and even though NaVi managed to retain their level, Gambit didn’t.

Their loss to G2 Esports shows that offline battle just isn’t like online battle. So this poses the question whether they’re actually fit to withstand the pressure of real, physical playoffs. They’re not in their living rooms or at a bootcamp anymore, but in a studio alongside casters, staff, and their opponents. Time will tell whether players with a handful of LAN tournaments under their belt will be able to keep up.

Since the beginning of the year, Dmitry “sh1ro” Sokolov has been a rising contender and has enabled comparisons to s1mple himself. Now, he has to show that he has the nerves and the mental fortitude to contend with him offline. Even though this is just a studio environment, the pressure put upon this youngster should be a lot higher. This is exactly the kind of advantage that the likes of Astralis have! These teams have immeasurable LAN and even Major experience. Since returning to offline competition, the Danes have improved immensely and will now get a shot at reclaiming their “era”.

The playoffs of IEM Cologne will show whether the results of all these online tournaments had any real value for the scene. It’s a great sign that Gambit and Virtus.pro have made the Top 6, but it’s still a long road to the Grand Finals.