The first day of the ESL ESEA Pro League Finals turned out to be one of the most unpredictable days of Counter-Strike in recent memory. North America came out swinging, taking three of the four first round matches, notably claiming one of the two first day slots in the semifinals.
Here is a look at both of the quarterfinal matches that will take place tomorrow.
Cloud9 versus Team EnVyUs
These two teams faced in the first round of Group A, where Cloud9 were able to bounce back after going behind in both the first and second half to embarrass Team EnVyUs. The 16-13 seems close based on the score, but Cloud9 were in complete control of the game for most of both halves.
Of course, for these two to meet Cloud9 had to go on to lose to Virtus.pro in a fairly one sided game, while EnVyUs easily dispatched Luminosity to get their chance at revenge.
The quarterfinal will be a best-of-three, making an upset a much more difficult task for Cloud9 than it was in the best-of-one opening match — that is, if Cloud9 are still the underdog. The way in which Cloud9 defeated EnVyUs was convincing and if the Americans can have the same confidence on more than just Cache there could very well be another upset tomorrow.
The story of the game, at least talent-wise, will be if Skadoodle can keep up his dominant form and help Cloud9 overcome the talent-packed EnVyUs lineup. EnVy's Happy was tied for highest kill differential of Day 1 with +18 on the day, going +15 in his team’s game versus Luminosity; it's safe to say he will be a major player in the matchup tomorrow. Another thing to look out for is if Cloud9 will have the strategic depth to catch EnVyUs unprepared again as seangares' calling played a large part in the last match between the two.
Predicting this matchup comes down purely to whether or not you buy into the North American results on Day 1 being due to the teams' own merits, or just simply a function of catching the Europeans unprepared. Either way, the best of three will surely be a great match to watch considering how close the matchup has proven to be.
The winner will advance to face Counter Logic Gaming in semifinal, which, for either Cloud9 or Team EnVyUs, could be an easy path to finals. CLG could put up a tough fight, but ultimately their map pool is likely too shallow to take a best of three off of either of the teams that could advance to face them.
Also of note, if Cloud9 manages to win against Team EnVyUs a North American team will be guaranteed a slot in the Grand Final on Sunday.
Keyd Stars versus Fnatic
When both Team SoloMid and Fnatic were knocked into the elimination match of Group B you knew that matches would be interesting from then on. After eliminating their recent rivals, Team SoloMid, Fnatic advanced to face the Brazilian team, Keyd Stars, for a slot in the semifinals.
Keyd Stars have a near-impossible task of putting together another upset win as the best-of-three quarterfinal leaves little room for freak upsets. But based off of the way this event has gone so far there are not very many safe predictions left.
There is no way to know how the Keyd Stars’ preparation will match up against Fnatic’s map pool, but it is usually safe to assume the more veteran and consistent Europeans will almost always have the edge. Although, as they were aware of the teams in their group prior to the event, the Keyd Stars should have had ample time to work on counter-strategies for every team.
The Keyd Stars found their way into the quarterfinals by upsetting Team SoloMid in the first round, in a close, but still convincing game on Inferno. This map which will likely be banned out tomorrow, potentially along with Mirage, another map the Keyd Stars have made their home in the past.
In their next match, the Keyd Stars fell to North American rivals CLG, but the loss will have almost no important in the match tomorrow as they have a night to sleep off any bad emotions.
Fnatic had a more interesting day to day the least. They also lost to CLG, but it was in their first match of the event, which put them into the previously-mentioned elimination game versus Team SoloMid. Their pit fight with TSM was as close as it usually is when the two meet, but the Swedes took the win in the final rounds, recovering from what was an almost late-game collapse.
The winner of this match will face Virtus.pro in the semifinals, a much more difficult prospect than if they were on the other side of the bracket. Virtus has been much improved this weekend, although they have yet to play another European team.
There is always the possibility that the Polish squad plays better when going up against the more free North American style. The Keyd Stars would definitely be the underdog if they managed to shock Fnatic, while the Swedes are essentially favorites in every match they play for the rest of the event.
Jacob Julliet writes about Counter-Strike for theScore eSports. Follow him on Twitter.