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After a quick, four-day break, IEM Katowice 2022 is resuming action. This time, however, the tournament will be bringing the six remaining CSGO teams to play in front of a live audience at the Spodek arena, one of the most prestigious stages in Counter-Strike, and esports history. After two long years, CSGO returns to the biggest stage Katowice has to offer, and from now until Sunday, all games played will have incredibly high stakes as one mistake will be enough to send a squad home.

So, in order to get ready for one of the biggest Counter-Strike events of the year, here we are. This is everything you need to know about IEM Katowice 2022 playoffs, as well as the key storylines of this part of the tournament.

THE PLAYOFFS

The final stage of IEM Katowice 2022 is set to start this Friday (25th), at 2:30 PM UTC. You can check which time that is in your zone through here. Opening the tournament in Spodek will be G2 Esports and Virtus.Pro. Which are going to be followed by FaZe Clan and Gambit to complete the quarter-finals.

As for the event format, the playoffs run a single-elimination bracket. The top teams of each one of the two groups from the previous stage have advanced directly to the semi-finals. These are Heroic and Natus Vincere. The remaining four teams listed above have finished their groups in second and third-place, and will have to play in the quarters before anything. All matches are best-of-three series until the grand-finals, which is a BO5 game. The grand-finals will be taking place on February 27th, and it will start at 4:00 PM UTC.

Finally, the winning team will be taking home $400.000. The champions will also be getting 1800 points at the ESL Pro Tour circuit, and 3200 points for the BLAST Premier circuit. Now that we’ve the tournament details set in stone, let’s take a look at the storyline happening in Katowice this weekend!

HOW FAR CAN YOU GO? – FAZE CLAN

The guys from FaZe Clan can be quite proud of what they’ve achieved so far in Katowice. The squad led by Finn “karrigan” Andersen started their run in Katowice from the very start of the event at the Play-In stage, and they had to field a stand-in back then. While Justin “jks” Savage was great, playing with a stand-in, as good as they might be, always put a strain on a team. Nonetheless, FaZe Clan held their own with jks until Robin “ropz” Kool was cleared to play, and now the dangerous FaZe we saw at the BLAST Premier Spring Groups is back.

Yet, back then, we only saw a glimpse of what this FaZe roster can do. As we saw in their latest game, in which they faced Natus Vincere, this team is already showing further improvements. Surely, they couldn’t cross the finish line last week against the best team in the world, but they pushed them to the limits, and that’s a feat on its own. FaZe is looking great, and as long as the whole squad goes to the Spodek, they are a contender.

PUSHING AND BEING PUSHED

But it’s at the Spodek that this squad will be put to the limits. Surely facing Na’Vi was already a test, but now, there’s no room for mistake. They aren’t playing for getting a better placement in the next stage. This time, being defeated means being sent home. It’s up to FaZe to show how far they can go against the best teams CSGO has to offer right now at the biggest stage Counter-Strike has been in over two years.

At the end of the day, being sent home in the quarters won’t be a shame for FaZe or anything like that. It might be disappointing for fans after all effort everyone in the team has put, but nothing more. But here’s the thing: this FaZe team finally has the potential to be more than a “quarter-finals team”. They have found the right roster to dispute trophies, and there’s no better way to prove that than beating Gambit. Spodek is FaZe’s opportunity to break through the best teams in the world once more, and perhaps realize that this roster can achieve the ambitions Karrigan first had when he was brought to the organization back in 2017. Be proud of what you’ve achieved so far, but not satisfied.

NOTHING COULD STOP THEM FROM BEING HERE – G2

G2 had quite a rough road to reach the playoffs of IEM Katowice 2022. The squad kicked off their run from the group stage, and they were immediately surprised. After being sent to the lower-bracket by FNATIC, G2 managed to dominantly eliminate Team Liquid, but once again didn’t have a clean game against FURIA. Astralis was no match for them either, but even the shaky Danes were able to take a map of this team.

And the community couldn’t help but comment on what they were seeing in this squad. Once more, it was up to Nikola “NiKo” Kovač to bring this team through the finish line. Once again, it was NiKo’s show, for better or for worse. The difference this time around is that G2 has players that should be able to help him, but weren’t quite as effective for one reason or another. Ilya “m0NESY” Osipov, G2’s new prodigy AWPer, for example, is starting to show his lack of experience against high tier teams.

Yet, as difficult as things might have turned out to be, G2 managed to reach Katowice’s playoffs. And let’s not forget how they did it – by crushing Astralis in the two final maps of their series. G2 has shown that they will struggle at times when it comes to tactics, but if you don’t have the firepower to compete with them, you’ll be facing a very difficult task. That, alone, makes them worth of being here.

GOING FORWARD

However, from this point onward in Katowice, there’s no more Astralis. There won’t be a struggling Team Liquid or FURIA either. G2’s first opponents in the playoffs, Virtus.Pro, will already test them both in the firepower department and tactical side of their game. Their new AWPer, m0NESY, will have a major headache to deal with as he competes with Dzhami “Jame” Ali. NiKo is the best rifler you can have on your team, sure, but Evgeniy “FL1T” Lebedev and Mareks “YEKINDAR” Gaļinskis aren’t half-bad either.

Let’s not forget about G2’s captain, Aleksi “Aleksib” Virolainen, either. He built himself a reputation years ago, but reaching the playoffs at Katowice already is one of his biggest achievements since after his time at ENCE. Does he still have enough to micro-manage the non-star players of this squad and keep G2 ahead of Jame’s VP?

All questions we have for G2 will be answered this Friday, at the opening match of the IEM Katowice 2022 playoffs. NiKo wants that trophy, but is this new G2 squad already ready to compete for trophies? Are your strengths enough to cover your weaknesses?

COMING FOR YOU – GAMBIT

The defending champions of IEM Katowice 2021 are going to the Spodek to defend their title. More importantly, there are here to show that this team is one of the best in the world, no matter whether is online or offline. While Gambit lost a bit of momentum once LANs returned last year, the Russian powerhouse is now getting used to the environment, and they are doing much better on it. However, things change now, as this is only Gambit’s second showing in front of a crowd, meaning that while they might be used to LANs, crowds are still a new element to most of this roster.

Yet, if there’s one team that is seemingly incredibly quick to adjust, it’s this Gambit roster. Their coach, Konstantin “groove” Pikiner has shown to be quite the asset. He was key on helping this team improve in offline events for one. Most importantly, he seems to be in perfect sync with Gambit’s in-game leader, Vladislav “nafany” Gorshkov. This means that while some teams would crumble given the pressure surrounding them coming to the Spodek, Gambit has the structure needed to support it. Furthermore, this structure is so well-made that it’ll give Gambit a major advantage over most teams around.

FAVORITES

If not by Natus Vincere, Gambit would be the clear favorites of their side of the bracket in the playoffs. Even with Na’Vi around, though, they still are a team that no one would be surprised of seeing at the grand-finals. With Natus Vincere starting to show up cracks, Gambit is in the perfect place to punch through those and break the stronghold of their rivals.

It’s obvious that this is exactly what nafany and his teammates want, too. As many should remember, during the first half of 2021, these two teams had a rivalry going, until Na’Vi went one march ahead of them and Gambit was left behind. Now, the exact opposite is happening, and Katowice is the place where Gambit can show that they have caught up to Na’Vi and now have the lead.

If Gambit manages to prove that, then they will definitely be the favorites heading into the grand-finals. However, let’s not start thinking too far ahead, right? First and foremost, Gambit has to assert that they are the better team over FaZe. And that alone will be a difficult task. They are the slight favorites going into that game, but FaZe has shown to be able to pack a punch, and they will put Gambit to the test. Step up ahead.

SLEEPER HIT – HEROIC

For some reason, when the conversation about the best teams in Counter-Strike right now comes, Heroic is often missing. Sure, they had a rough end of year in 2021, and they aren’t yet on a point to be the absolute best team in the world. Even so, the efforts put by Casper “cadiaN” Møller and his boys have to be acknowledged at this point. Sure, Heroic has some controversy surrounding them, but after everything that happened last year, it’s fair to say that they are here to stay.

Of course, all of Heroic accomplishments are thanks to the effort from all players and their support staff, but it’s hard to not highlight some key elements of this team. Martin “stavn” Lund has been giving some fundamental firepower for this roster, especially in Katowice so far. Rasmus “sjuush” Beck has also been doing an excellent job as a role-player. Together with cadiaN popping off every now and then – or at the very least doing the essential with the AWP – this team seems to be in perfect synchrony.

BRIGHT FUTURE AHEAD

Heroic has already impressed in IEM Katowice. The squad crushed both Team Vitality and Virtus.Pro during the group stage. With those wins – and in the way Heroic achieved then – the Danish squad now has plenty of eyes on them. Yet, as great as Heroic has done so far, they are yet to face their biggest opponent in Katowice. Whether they face FaZe or Gambit in the semi-finals, that will be Heroic’s hardest opponent yet. Gambit, especially, will be quite the headache for cadiaN & co.

However, nothing is impossible, especially here in Katowice where no team in the playoffs have a clear advantage over another. And those are the conditions that gives teams like Heroic an opportunity to prove that they are a team worth of being considered one of the best in the world. For Heroic, doing well here is about the prestige above anything else. It’s time for them being more than a sleeper hit, whether it’s online or offline. Keep overlooking them and see what happens.

HOW ARE YOU? – NATUS VINCERE

Natus Vincere finished 2021 as the best CSGO team in the world, but they have been slowly losing their momentum. Since the last couple of months, Na’Vi still is a favorite to win trophies, but they aren’t quite the undefeatable beast they looked like before.

So far in IEM Katowice 2022, Natus Vincere has looked far better than they did at the Spring Groups, but not as good as they once did. As shown in their game against FaZe Clan, they can have their players shut. Now, Kirill Sergeevich “Boombl4” Mikhailov is certainly a solid captain, but he isn’t quite on the same level as nafany or NiP’s Hampus “hampus” Poser. Hence, when one of Na’Vi stars is shut down, Boombl4 don’t have quite the ways to circumvent that.

Yet, it’s not like it’s easy to shut Denis “electroNic” Sharipov, Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev or Valerii “b1t” Vakhovskyi. Not matter how negatively you look at this roster, these three players, when on point, won’t be broken by any other team around. And if one, or even two of them are having a quieter game, the remaining star can take the game on their own. This is the kind of player Natus Vincere has, and why they are so dangerous.

POSSIBILITIES

It’s easy to start looking too much into Natus Vincere performances at BLAST Spring Groups. When doing that, we forget how indomitable this team has looked. And sure, other teams have started planning against them, but even so, no one has figured how to consistently stop the entire Na’Vi squad.

Nothing but the trophy is acceptable for this Natus Vincere. Fans certainly won’t consider a disappointment if they lose to Gambit or finish in 2nd place, but after all this roster has accomplished, there’s no other acceptable result than first place.

UNDERDOGS AMONG THE BIG DOGS – VIRTUS.PRO

It wouldn’t be surprising if in a pool questioning which of the six teams in the playoffs have the least chances to win IEM Katowice 2022, Virtus.Pro ends up in first. The CIS powerhouse just won ESL Challenger #48 before coming to Katowice, and they started strong in Poland, too. However, after getting beaten by Heroic, some doubts about this roster started to pop up. Sure, VP seems to be comfortably against teams like Copenhagen Flames, but do they have enough against more structured rosters like Gambit?

Yet, as better as the other contender in the playoffs might look, we cannot discard VP. Jame, the team’s captain, surely has his own style of AWPing – a very passive one – but it works. As mentioned above, FL1T and YEKINDAR are some of the best riflers the CIS region has to offer, and they have yet to show what they can truly do here. Timur “buster” Tulepov has also been playing fairly well so far, making this roster even more dangerous.

Virtus.Pro success – or lack thereof – in the playoffs, is a matter of how far they current structure can take them. They will be facing G2 in their opening match, which actually will be a fairly good test of this roster. Much like VP, G2 seems to be struggling to control some maps, and they often rely on firepower. Which team will manage to more efficiently deploy their guns?

MORE THAN ENOUGH

Gambit, Heroic and Na’Vi are still aiming at the trophy of IEM Katowice 2022. Virtus.Pro in the other hand, might have gotten a reality-check during their game against Heroic, and reduced their expectations. While a tad disappointing, this isn’t unexpected, as this team flaws on the tactical said become more and more prominent. It’s clear that teams like Heroic and Gambit will be exploiting them to break the FL1T – Jame – YEKINDAR formation. Other teams like Natus Vincere, will be able can overwhelm them with firepower.

So, for Virtus.Pro, a playoffs finish is enough. They managed to beat the teams they should be beating after all. Unless their defeat to Heroic was just the result of a bad day – which is unlikely – it’s hard to see Virtus.Pro winning a game in the playoffs. And for a team that’s aiming to be the gate-keepers of the top five, this is fine. Is it satisfying? Absolutely not. Bound to hit their limits.

IEM KATOWICE RESUMES THIS FRIDAY

Counter-Strike fans will be rejoicing shortly as IEM Katowice returns. This time, at the Spodek arena. And with a live crowd!This certainly is the esports event no one will want to miss in February. So, in order to keep up with the latest news, make sure to follow us here!

The author

My name is Marcos, I have been following the CSGO pro scene since 2015 but really got into in following games and pro teams in 2016. Used to bet a lot, stopped a bit but never stopped following the esports scene. I’m a student right now so I got a lot of time to keep with it and discover new things.

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