Elite eight: the EPL S14 quarterfinals
The best teams of the event.
ESL Pro League Season 14 is down to the elite eight - four group stage winners and four teams, which survived the grueling Round of 12. Now it is time for the quarterfinals, as we are inching closer to crowning a second EPL champion of 2021, as Heroic are still the reigning champions, winning that monstrous best of five set against Gambit Esports few months ago.
Speaking of both Gambit and Heroic, they were joined by OG and Natus Vincere in the quarterfinals due to winning their respective groups, even if the European squads swept their parts of the bracket, while the CIS teams squeaked into the first despite dropping a match each.
Both OG and Ninjas in Pyjamas looked less than stellar last time we saw them during the IEM Cologne 2021, as the former could not even make the main event. During the EPL, however, things changed, as OG showcased a variety of different strategies and map picks, winning all of their five matches, while NiP battled despite a poor start to the event and managed to take down mousesports in the first round of playoffs.
Both squads know that if they manage to make it to the semifinals, there is a realistic chance of going all the way, as NAVI, TL and Heroic are on the other side of the bracket and Gambit looked less impressive than usual during the group stage (NiP even swept them there to stay alive in the event). However it will take massive performances to survive what might be a grueling affair on Thursday.
As far as maps go, OG will likely ban Ancient, knowing that NiP don’t want to play Vertigo, so it is a question if the Scandinavian mix wants to ban it themselves or call a bluff and move towards more important maps in the pool. Overpass is a highly probable pick for the Swedes, while OG might opt into Inferno or Mirage, wherever they want to play. Decider is almost guaranteed to be Dust2, as neither team wants to play Nuke as a third.
Second match on Thursday is going to be a rematch from the IEM Summer 2021, where Team Vitality managed to take Gambit Esports down in the group stage, albeit the CIS team still won the event in the end.
Gambit won their group despite losing to Ninjas in Pyjamas, but it was far from their dominant form, as Team Liquid came dangerously close to winning as well, having a match point on the decider map. Team Vitality were few rounds from taking group A themselves, as Heroic pulled out a yet another comeback on Inferno against them, but it’s a powerful team which might make a deep run at any event they participate in.
Nuke and Ancient are definitely not going to be picked, but it remains to be seen what is going to be featured in the map pool. Vitality had success against Gambit on Dust2 and Overpass, but Inferno looks to be the best pick against the CIS finest right now, as Inferno, Vertigo and whichever map both teams want to have a decider look to be as the most likely outcome.
While Team Vitality could not close group A with a win, it was Heroic, who got a direct berth into the quarterfinals, where they will face a white-hot Team Liquid lineup, fresh off sweeping fnatic in the quarterfinals. The Danes, however, are still the reigning champions of the ESL Pro League, so it is not a unit which is going to be easily deterred from their ways, especially considering the ongoing investigations around the organization.
Dust2 and Ancient are usual bans and Heroic will likely opt into Nuke, while Liquid might have little more options. They showed a great Inferno, picked into Overpass in the past or could even test the waters with a Mirage or Vertigo, so this might be the set with the most possible outcomes in the draft phase. Heroic’s map pool, however, is something to be afraid of, as the Danes have shown time and time again that their prowess spreads into more than a few maps.
What might be the most lopsided quarterfinal is ENCE Esports facing off against Natus Vincere, who are widely considered as the biggest favourite to take the entire event. The European mix, however, wasn’t considered as a team to advance from group A or the quarterfinals, as they have eliminated not only Bad News Bears, but Astralis, Team Spirit and forZe along the way. Natus Vincere, however, is a different beast, so it will take more than a solid performance to eliminate them from contention already in the Round of 8.
ENCE have shown that they are not scared of picking Ancient first, the map which NAVI have shown that they are more than capable of playing, while Natus Vincere will likely pick Nuke, considering their winning streak on the map. The last map will likely be either Mirage or Dust2, depending on the teams preferences, but if the decider is going to be forced, a lot has to go the way of ENCE Esports during the first two games.
Who will move on and who is going to be eliminated? Learn on Thursday and Friday, September 10th and 11th, as eight teams will join the server to find out!