Astralis step into the fray against Fnatic as undisputed favourites, once again looking to impress with their near flawless play style. Over the past ten months the teams have clashed on ten occasions, with both teams at five wins a head. Rather curiously Astralis had experienced great difficulty against Fnatic during their ESL Pro League Season 6 online matches, where the Danes were unable to obtain double digits against the Swedes. Astralis will look to seek revenge for the online matches, whilst Fnatic will attempt to recreate their performance against the #5 team in the world.
Astralis vs. Fnatic - 2:0
de_Train - 16:5 (12:3, 4:2)
Astralis get off to a swimming start on Fnatic's map pick. A B fake was read like a book by the Danes, whereby the defence did not overextend through deployed smokes, instead allowed the enemy team to plant the bomb and all of their own members the chance to rotate from one site to the other. In usual Astralis fashion the Ts were dealt with systematically, landing a defuse and a 1:0 score. Fnatic forced into the second round on the back of the bomb plant money, only to be shut down on A. Another semi-buy later Fnatic were faced with an 0:3 deficit. Round 4 witnessed Fnatic score their first round of the map despite working with upgraded pistols against rifles. A 1v1 situation in a post-plant between Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth and "Golden" saw Fnatic's captain demonstrate great positioning, effectively forcing the Dane to save his rifle due to insufficient time for a defuse.
Following this victory Fnatic began to struggle to produce results. Round after round seemed to fall in favour of Astralis, who simply outperformed the Swedes. All sorts of avenues and switch-ups were employed by the Ts, however reads came through consistently from the Danes, shutting down effectively all advances till they had accrued an 8:1 round surplus. Fed up of consistently losing rounds Fnatic's In-Game Leader, Golden showed the server how it's done by scoring a 4k on the B site, as well as a second round victory for the team.
The remainder of the initial half was eerily reminiscent of it's earlier stage, whereby Fnatic simply struggled to get rounds out of the Danes, whether due to financial struggles or simply being shut down when attempting a bomb site advancement. Only a single additional round was picked up by Fnatic, conceding a 3:12 deficit come the second half.
With high hopes Fnatic set off on the CT side, successfully landing the first round in a post-plant situation. A smoke wall was deployed by the Danes on B, allowing for a fast site take coupled with a bomb plant. Once all three members of Fnatic posted on the A site rotated over to B the team started overwhelming the Ts. The situation came down to a 3v2 in favour of the Swedes. Robin "flusha" Rönnquist took care of business utilising his USP-S against the Glock9s at range. Whilst on an eco in round 17, Astralis managed to pull a quick one on Fnatic by selling an Ivy push, only to sneak into B and secure a bomb plant. This proved to be crucial in the following round as it allowed the Danes a comprehensive buy.
Once fully equipped, Astralis began running away with rounds in consecutive fashion. Through efficient use of utility and timely flashbangs the team was able to catch defending members of Fnatic off-guard, slowly chipping away at their finances as a side-effect. With a diminishing economy the CTs slowly spiralled into a exponentially worsening situation. A total of four consecutive rounds were lost by the Swedes, the final of which witnessed an amazing individual performance from Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen, who landed an anti-eco 4k from behind the enemy lines to close out the first map for his team at 16:5.
de_Overpass - 16:12 (9:6, 7:6)
A textbook pistol round came out from Fnatic, where the team once again masterfully utilised the range superiority of the USP-S vs. the Glock9. The round was brought to a 4v5 situation for the Swedes, as Jesper "JW" Wecksell was caught out at long. Despite this opening Astralis opted for a B site take, where the team secured a bomb plant - only to be mowed down by the long-range pistols, granting their opponents the first round after a defuse. A force buy in round two saw a similar situation in that a single CT was found, followed by an explosive entry onto B, this time to great avail as the CT economy was in tatters at 1:1. Further force buy malarkey ensued, with Fnatic once more swaying the tides as a 2v4 for the Swedes equipped with pistols turned into a 2v0, after a 3k from Freddy "KRiMZ" Johansson complemented by a frag from Golden closed the third round.
Come the first gun round for both teams, Astralis delivered, which set off the team to a winning streak. Fnatic were cycling in and out of economic resets after a shaky start for both teams, however naturally the more resource-intensive CT side was experiencing issues with buys. Back-to-back force buys didn't do the team any favours either, further worsening their round score situation, ultimately allowing the Danes a string of five consecutive rounds at 6:2. After a tactical pause the Swedes seemed to have composed themselves. A full buy was seen in round 9, where the team was equipped to the brim across the board, utility and all. If a round loss were to happen on this occasion the team would once m ore face financial difficulty, however no such thing happened as Fnatic had secured their third round after a solid hold on B.
The Swedish roster continued their dominant stint, as in the next three rounds the CTs straight outperformed the offense. Despite three consecutive losses, Astralis had previously accrued such a financial cushion that this simply did not impact their ability to buy as far as round 13, which the team managed to claw back against Fnatic. Dupreeh came through for his team in round 14, as we witnessed a beautiful 1v2 clutch into a round victory, where the Dane was left with all but 3 hp and an AWP.
The final round of the initial half saw a swift conclusion as Fnatic had a single rifle coupled with four upgraded pistols to pose against Astralis. The Danes opted for a fast A take, one that went through according to plan, concluding the first half at 9:6 for Astralis.
The latter half commenced with a strong B site hit with a bomb plant from Fnatic, one that was meticulously dismantled by Astralis. No luck for the Swedes despite a well-placed molotov by Flusha, as the CTs had ample time to defuse the bomb even without a kit. Two additional rounds were accrued by Astralis off the back of early success, as the prior saw inferior weaponry playing a significant role in hindering the Swedes' chance of grabbing rounds, whilst the latter had fairly equal ground. Curiously, only on a pistol force buy were the Swedes able to upset the Danes, both bolstering their economy via kill money and accrued rifles, as well as knocking Astralis' money a tad. Still able to buy, the Danes attempted to keep their heads in the match, instead conceding a buy round in round 20, resetting their economy.
With a dire state of finances a double eco came from Astralis, allowing Fnatic to bridge their round deficit to just two at 10:12. No carrot for the Danes in their subsequent full buy either, as a pacey B take from Fnatic caught the team off guard, leaving a lonely Nicolai "device" Reedtz saving the AWP. Astralis were packing four CZ-75s and an AWP in round 24, and in fashion of this series they of course managed to pick up a round digit despite the significant setback. Fnatic retaliated in the following round, able to keep up with the Danes at 12:13, however occasional slip-ups and mistakes meant the team would go on to concede two rounds into an economic reset, one that proved fatal for the Swedish roster. Finally in round 28 the Danes closed out with a 16:12 score, after defeating Fnatic on their pistol force buy.
This series demonstrated just how picture perfect Astralis can play. Whilst the Danes can occasionally experience difficulties with individual performances, on this occasion the roster was on the same page, working like clockwork. Regardless as to whether their map pick or not, the team reminded us just why they were considered #1 not too long ago, and why they stand a very real chance of taking this tournament away. The team will now be preparing for their semi-final match-up against Cloud9, which also promises to be a fantastic match considering the Americans' performance at the tournament.