The final group at ESL Pro League Season 14 came to a close on Sunday night and was another nail-biter that was only decided with the final round of fixtures. Here are some of the best storylines from Group D.
Team Liquid give NA hope
With Bad News Bears and Evil Geniuses crashing out of Pro League without a single series win to their name, NA’s hopes were resting on Team Liquid heading into Group D. The side were amongst the favorites to make it into the playoffs before the group kicked off, however, their performances in the server throughout the round of fixtures surpassed even the most optimistic of expectations.
Gambit, ranked number two in the world, were the only side to best Liquid in a series, and only FURIA were able to take a map off the NA in the remaining round of fixtures. The team averaged a rating of 1.08, making them the eighth highest-rated team at the tournament so far, with Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski and Jacky “Stewie2K” Yip looking especially at ease in the current Liquid setup, and there was even an opportunity for Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo to roll back the clock with some vintage aggressive AWPing.
For the first time since the introduction of the online era, Team Liquid look assured, composed, and potentially a real force in the making; their map pool looks settled, their roles are being carried out effectively, and there’s every chance the side could just be on their way back to their best.
Guerri and FURIA denied at the last
Few teams arrived with a worse set of preparation circumstances than FURIA, with the Brazilians being unable to travel with either André “drop” Abreu or Lucas “honda” Honda due to COVID protocols, being forced to field coach Nicholas “guerri” Nogueira.
Typically, teams that arrive at a major tournament with this set of circumstances behind them usually bow out dismally, however, FURIA’s campaign at Pro League took everyone by surprise for how gritty and successful it turned out to be. Recovering from an opening-round shock loss to Entropiq, FURIA were able to dismantle region rivals Team One and sweep Ninjas in Pyjamas 2-0, setting up a final-day decider against Liquid.
A win for FURIA would have taken the Brazilians through ahead of NiP, and overtime on the final map of Mirage was all that could separate the pair, with Fallen and co. just scraping through with the win in the end. Kaike “KSCERATO” Cerato ended Group D as the third highest-rated player at Pro League with a 1.30 rating, and to be denied in such dramatic fashion right at the last, showcases just how many positives there are to take away from a campaign few in the community expected to be as encouraging as it turned out to be.
NiP still waiting to impress
Group D was generally encouraging for most of the sides playing in the server, however, for NiP it was yet another stop-start chapter for this new era. Ever since the arrival of Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz, the expectation has been huge for NiP, but, the team have rarely shown signs of setting the world alight yet, struggling through games and looking generally a bit devoid of ideas or inspiration when up against fellow sides at the top end of the world rankings.
The team looked out of sorts in their losses to FURIA and Liquid and were only granted passage into the playoffs thanks to other results going their way on the final day, though Hampus “hampus” Poser and Fredrik “REZ” Sterner’s performances in the group will give NiP fans some encouragement going forward.
NiP face off against Mousesports in the tournament’s round of 12, and will undoubtedly need to step up their performances if they want to run deep at Pro League and start justifying the hype attached to them.