Malmö has been quite a surprise, no doubt about it. With the likes of Virtus.Pro, Team EnVyUs, and FaZe Clan being eliminated from the tournament, it's safe to say that the professional CS:GO scene is closer than it ever has been before.Eight teams now remain as they head to the Malmö Arena in Malmö, Sweden to face off for the lion's share of the US$250,000 prize pool.Quarterfinal #1: G2 Esports vs. SK Gaming
G2 Esports, the French super-team, come to the arena as Group D's first seed, taking it 16-13 on Inferno against their French brethren on Team EnVyUs and taking the winner's match 2-1 vs the Brazilian prospects in Immortals.
SK Gaming, the world's current #1 team on HLTV, come here as Group A's second seed, crushing Asia's only hope in B.O.O.T-d[S] 16-2 on Mirage, then losing to the Danish lions North 1-2 in a close winner's match, before redeeming themselves 2-0 in the decider match versus the North American stars on Cloud9.For G2 Esports to win:
- Be more decisive in their matches
- Work on their CT side
- Star players shox and bodyy need to show up
Even though they made it out of groups undefeated, the scorelines were so close that they could go either way. Their games need to be more decisive and one-sided, considering the hype around this "super-team" after the ELEAGUE Major in Atlanta this past January.In their opener versus Team EnVyUs, G2 only took 5 CT rounds in the first half, showing that their CT side needs quite a bit of work. Some of their star players will need to show up in certain rounds, especially Richard "shox" Papillon and Alexendre "bodyy" Pianaro, the former posting a sub-par 57.6 ADR in the EnVyUs match and the latter posting a below-average 53.3 ADR on Mirage in the Bo3 winner's match against North.For SK Gaming to win:
- Work on their Train just a little bit
- Make sure FalleN is AWPing consistently
- Make sure felps shows up
SK lost to North on Train 8-16 in the winner's match, only taking a single round in the second half. Considering this is one of SK's best maps, if not their best map, it is quite an upset. The post-Major break has seen SK on the down low with no roster changes whatsoever.
Their AWPer and in-game leader, Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo is a wild card; although his shotcalling is one of the best in the world, his AWP is a bit inconsistent at times, as seen in various rounds throughout the group stage.PREDICTION: 2-1 to SK Gaming
While both teams have superior individuals who can show up in crucial rounds, SK Gaming has the upper hand, as FalleN's leadership makes the Brazilians more cohesive than the Frenchmen. coldzera and felps have showed up in the group stages of this tournament, and in front of this crowd, these two players will be making explosive plays that will make the crowd get up and roar!
Quarterfinal #2: Ninjas in Pyjamas vs. Natus Vincere
The Ninjas in Pyjamas come into Malmö as defending champions and as Group C's first seed, taking their opening match 16-8 on Nuke against the European superstars on FaZe Clan, then closing out their group stage run by taking the winner's best-of-three series 2-1 against a Gambit Esports with trial player Bektiyar “fitch” Bahytov.Natus Vincere come into this as the runner-ups in Group B and as the runner-ups in last year's DreamHack Masters Malmö, plowing the Polish legends Virtus.Pro 16-4 on Inferno, but losing 0-2 in the winner's series against Astralis. Fending off elimination in the decider matches, Natus Vincere held on to their tournament lives as they defeated Renegades in a surprisingly close 2-0 series.
For Ninjas in Pyjamas to win:
- Have f0rest pop off
- Ensure draken and REZ don't crack under pressure
Despite missing both Majors in 2017, the Ninjas still have a lot to show for with the new additions of William "draken" Sundin and Fredrik "REZ" Sterner from Epsilon eSports. With a quarterfinal finish at ESL One: Cologne 2017 and a victory at DreamHack Valencia this past July, both players have shown that they can compete at the top level.That being said, this is a Swedish crowd they are playing in front of. And both players know that the team's title at Malmö is at stake. As good as they are, it is on them -- as well as the legends in Xizt, GeT_RiGhT, and f0rest -- to not crack under pressure. And speaking of f0rest...He has had explosive games in this group stage, posting an impressive 1.90 HLTV Rating 2.0 and 132 ADR in the group opener versus FaZe Clan. If he can simply replicate this performance, and have the two new players show up, then a world in which NiP lose this series simply does not exist.For Natus Vincere to win:
- Work on that CT side, especially retake scenarios
- Execute onto bombsites when playing T much faster
In the series loss to Astralis, not a single player posted a positive K/D and a rating higher than a 1.0. In addition to this, Natus Vincere did not post a single round on the CT side of Overpass, which should be an issue if NiP's CT side was not as equally weak as theirs.With Zeus back on Natus Vincere, the sluggish and methodical executes return that defined (and plagued) the team when he was last on their starting roster. While this slow and methodical style is nice, it eventually becomes predictable. A couple of fast takes or straight-up rushes to change the pace of the game would be nice to throw off NiP.
As for that CT side, retakes are just as slow as the executes on T side. If you're Zeus -- or any IGL, for that matter -- pay close attention to what post-plant positions the Terrorists hold, as it is often an indicator as to what corners they'll check when retaking a site on the CT side.PREDICTION: 2-1 to Ninjas in PyjamasZeus' style of calling might come back to haunt Natus Vincere, as this style did not yield many results when he was last on the team. s1mple and flamie can carry as hard as possible and Edward can clutch as many rounds as he so pleases, but Malmö is the Ninjas' turf. They are the defending champions here, and draken and REZ are here to prove to the world that they deserve that title!Quarterfinal #3: Astralis vs. Gambit EsportsAstralis come into the playoffs as the world's #2 team and as Group B's first seed, handily defeating the Renegades 16-3 on Train before sweeping Natus Vincere into the decider matches 2-0.Gambit Esports are your defending Major Champions and Group C's second seed, opening up their group stage 16-6 against mousesports, then losing to defending Malmö champions Ninjas in Pyjamas in a nail-biting 1-2 series, before coming back to send European superstars FaZe Clan home 2-1 in an upsetting decider match.For Astralis to win:
- Put device on that AWP whenever possible, but don't force him
- Play around the veto system to try and get Train or Overpass
Nicolai "device" Reedtz is quite an amazing AWPer -- arguably a top 3 AWPer in the world currently -- but, as seen throughout the group stage, especially in their series versus Natus Vincere, he wasn't showing up with the AWP and had to revert to rifling alongside his teammates, while Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen picked up the secondary AWP role and showed his stuff where device couldn't. In order for Astralis to be successful in their playoff run, device should definitely pick up the AWP whenever possible, but shouldn't be forced to, as he is a very capable rifler and dupreeh can simply take over that AWP role if needed.In addition, during their entire group stage, they dominated on Train and Overpass -- mind you, they only three maps in their run to the Malmö Arena. Against Renegades and Na'Vi, Astralis posted a 29-round difference in their three map wins (48 rounds to 19), and that shows just how diverse the Danes are in their map pool.For Gambit Esports to win:
- Try to counter Astralis' playstyle on Cobblestone
- Ensure fitch won't crack under pressure in his first international LAN
- Have Dosia and mou pop off
In the group stage, it was a whole lot of back-and-forth for them, with two maps going to overtime against NiP, but three players stood out: two for all the right reasons and one for having a bad day at the office.One player that stood out for all the right reasons was Rustem "mou" Telepov. In his group opener versus mousesports, he posted a 1.83 rating and 102 ADR, and was the only player that posted an average rating above 1.0 in the winner's series versus NiP. Alongside his performance at the Krakow Major, it's safe to say he will show up in this series.Trial player Bektiyar “fitch” Bahytov has been impressive in his first event with Gambit Esports, posting a 1.67 rating and 107.9 ADR in the opener versus mousesports. However, his weaknesses and inexperience on the professional level showed in the next match, where he posted an average rating of 0.85 and a -22 kill/death difference across the three maps. That didn't stop him, as he bounced back and posted a 1.01 rating to send FaZe Clan running for the hills. With the experience on Dauren “AdreN” Kystaubayev and Mikhail “Dosia” Stolyarov, they can keep fitch's nerves on the stage under control. And speaking of Dosia...
He has been underperforming a bit, despite his 1.12 rating in the opener against mousesports. In the series against NiP, Dosia posted a rating of 0.88 across the three maps, which, while on par, may not be enough to get the edge over a rejuvenated Astralis.PREDICTION: 2-1 to Astralis
As impressive as Gambit's firepower is, Astralis has the structure and leadership of Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander, as well as the consistency of Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth. It is that structure and leadsership that will put Astralis over the top, but expect a challenging fight from Gambit.
Quarterfinal #4: North vs. Immortals
North, Astralis' Danish brethren, come into the Malmö Arena as Group A's first seed, with a 16-10 win over Cloud9 and a 2-1 upset in the winner's match versus SK Gaming.
Immortals, the Brazilian prospects, come into Malmö as Group D's second seed, starting off with a nail-biting 16-14 win against the Swedes on FNATIC, before losing to the French super-team G2 Esports 1-2, before once again meeting FNATIC and closing the curtains to the Malmö Arena for them, as they sweep the series 2-0.
For North to win:
- valde needs to replicate his group stage performance
- If what k0nfig said about valde is true, pick Train with confidence
North's new fifth man, Valdemor "valde" Bjørn Vangså, has shown that he can be a carry when needed -- as evident in the match against Cloud9, in which he posted a 1.83 rating and over 120 ADR -- but can dial down and still be a consistent fragger, posting a 0.95 rating and 68 ADR in the series against SK Gaming. He has had some breakout performances with Heroic on some smaller tournaments, but playing for a Legend-status team and performing the way he has shows that he is not fazed by that.On the other hand, you have the youngster in Kristian "k0nfig" Wienecke who is quite flamboyant and known in the professional scene for his blunt talk - a.k.a. trash talk. But this is not one of those cases: in an interview to HLTV after North's win, k0nfig brought up valde's past experience on Train, saying that he "helped us a lot". Assuming this isn't banter from the young Dane, let's see Train in the match. And let us hope North can take it.
For Immortals to win:
kNgV- needs to be consistent in the series
boltz and steel need to replicate that amazing group stage performance
Let's face it: Vito "kNgV-" Guiseppe is a good player, but he does fall off ever so slightly at points in the game. kNg posted a sub-par 0.74 rating and a -10 kill/death difference on Inferno against G2 Esports. Not bad by any standards, but for a team considered to be SK Gaming's "academy" team, it does seem to be underwhelming.What teams do you see coming out on top? Comment below.