The Group Stage comes to a close with three teams securing qualification to the Spring Final
The end of the 8th day of play saw a trio of teams make it to the BLAST Premier Spring Finals in June, while nine others will be duking it out through the Play-In Stage gauntlet. There weren’t too many surprises in the results from the last two days, but the quality of the games was on par with what we have come to expect from teams of this caliber. Egos were shattered and hearts were broken, but at the same time, new hopes were kindled. If you haven’t been keeping tabs, here’s the shortest way to catch up.
A week into the tournament, out-of-form Natus Vincere took on underdogs Ninjas in Pyjamas. The other match of the day involved old Danish rivals in the form of the two ex-Astralis members on Team Vitality going up against the world’s current number-one team Heroic.
The Ukrainians have been looking increasingly mortal since their glory days in 2021 and early 2022, and have a lot to prove with relatively unconvincing performances and a new recruit who isn’t pulling his weight yet. Meanwhile, NIP, who were playing with a new addition and a substitute, have their own woes as far as team composition goes. Both teams were struggling, but on paper Na’ Vi still had much more firepower.
NIP’s pick of Inferno seemed to be completely justified as they went up to a 5-0 and then 7-2 lead on the T-side, but Na’ Vi managed to control their nerves and didn’t allow any more damage. Once on the attack, they were able to take advantage of the lack of coordination of this new NIP squad, and closed out the game 16-10. Denis “electroNic” Sharipov and Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev led the charts for Na’ Vi, but to be fair, the entire team played well.
If NIP’s map pick had backfired on them, Na’ Vi’s would go even worse. NIP were near-invincible on the defense, only allowing Na’ Vi to score a paltry 3 rounds on the attack. Na’ Vi began with a decent start on the CT-side, but the Swedes were more than up to the task, and took four rounds on the trot for a 16-7 drubbing. NIP completely outclassed their opponents as a whole, but Fredrik “REZ” Sterner’s contributions stood above those of the rest.
Sadly for NIP, their spirits were dampened not long after as Na’ Vi put up an ironclad defense on the decider Overpass, with s1mple playing out of his mind for a performance rated 2.07 by HLTV, which featured a ridiculous 100% Kills-Assists-Survived-Traded (KAST) score. With Na’ Vi taking 12 rounds on the CT side this time around and winning the Pistol Round in the second half, the writing was on the wall for NIP. They managed to get two rounds, after that, but the match ended in a one-sided 16-5.
After a year of relatively low success (by Vitality standards), the French-Danish team is eager to serve up some success to its fans. Heroic, on the other hand, seem to be struggling to get out of the shadow of their recent achievements, with some unconvincing performances that would almost certainly have been played better had they been last year. Both teams nevertheless came into the tournament aiming to top their group.
Heroic’s pick of Mirage didn’t quite go their way as they were mostly shut down on the attack, ending the half with just four rounds. Vitality got those four very quickly, but Heroic stalled their victory parade for five more rounds before they were able to end the game 16-11. Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut was — as he usually is — a force of nature, while Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen, who seems to have rediscovered his old form as of late, was also superb.
Moving on to the second map, Vitality’s Nuke, the French clan seemed to have it in the bag when they picked up a strong 8 rounds on the attack and quickly went up 11-7 on the defense. However, the Danes are number one in the world for a reason. They showed some amazing resilience and creativity to take nine of the next 11 rounds, and won the game 16-13. ZywOo was once again in great touch, but this time it was Casper “cadiaN” Møller’s performance that netted his team the victory.
In the second such case in the day, Heroic’s happiness was short-lived. Despite a decent 9-6 half on the T-side of Vertigo, Heroic got steamrolled on the defense. They could only pick up a measly two rounds as CTs on the heavily CT-sided map, while Vitality won with a statement 16-8 result to secure qualification. This time around, it was Emil “Magisk” Reif and Lotan “Spinx” Giladi who performed well for the winners.
The final day of the Group Stage began with last year’s Major champions, FaZe Clan, taking on OG yet again, while the feisty little team with big dreams kept on dreaming about and gunning for success. After that, Na’ Vi would finally be up against G2 again in what has become a bit of a modern CSGO classic.
If this match had been played even a few months ago, there would be no doubt in anyone's mind that FaZe would win, but OG has come a really long way since then. They look very strong in terms of aim and reflexes, and their attacking strategies seem to work very well on at least some teams. FaZe, on the other hand, are powerful and solid as always, and usually, bully smaller teams into submission. They had already beaten OG in the Upper Bracket, and the latter would have to devise something special to change that result.
FaZe unsurprisingly dominated the T-side of their map Mirage, not allowing OG to build up a strong economy and stringing clumps of rounds together to pile up a robust 9 rounds on the attack. Despite being up 12-7 at one point, however, they conceded way too many rounds as OG mounted a powerful comeback. It wasn’t until the last round of the map that they managed to close out the map. Commendable performances by both Abdulkhalik “degster” Gasanov and Adam “NEOFRAG” Zouhar fell short as Helvijs “broky” Saukants’s gun spoke louder.
Moving on to Ancient, OG started strong with four straight rounds, but their tactics then hit a brick wall of skill and experience as FaZe simply outclassed them for the rest of the half. Afterward, OG managed only two rounds in the second half, and FaZe stopped the show at 16-6. Stand-in Patrick “es3tag” Hansen top-fragged for the superteam, while broky also put in a thoroughly professional performance.
G2 had already made it abundantly clear that their exploits in December weren’t one-offs, and here was a chance to reassert their dominance. Na’ Vi meanwhile, was already sore from their previous encounter against the French team, and desperately wanted to get back at them in what was evidently a grudge match for them. With direct qualification on the line, the two teams locked horns on two maps they’ve both been solid on.
Suffice it to say that Na’ Vi’s pick of Inferno did not go as (probably) planned. After a strong start by G2 on the defense, the Ukrainians managed to put up five rounds on the board, but they were nowhere to be seen after the switch. All they could do is claim a solitary round on the defense while G2 slammed them in a 16-6 defeat. No prizes for guessing that Nikola “NiKo” Kovač was the best player on the server, and he got plenty of assistance from both Justin “jks” Savage and Ilya “m0NESY” Osipov.
Nuke was a slightly more competitive affair, but once again, G2 was simply too good for Na’ Vi. Despite m0NESY having an off-game, NiKo carried G2 to a solid 8-round T-side, and once they became the guards of the notorious plant, they didn’t allow too many successful attacks. Unable to string rounds together, Na’ Vi fell to a 16-10 defeat. Things may have ended up being closer had it not been for a bit of a misplay from the Ukrainians that lost them a final round that should, by all means have been theirs because of time.
Keep following our recaps through the Play-In Stage, and make sure you check out our other CSGO articles as well as those on any other esports you may enjoy.