Astralis are through to the playoffs of IEM Cologne after defeating Heroic 2-0 in the upper bracket of Group B, setting up a match against Natus Vincere to determine which team will advance directly to the semi-finals, and which will begin their playoff run from the quarter-finals.
The victory marks the first time that Astralis have prevailed in a domestic derby against their Danish opposition since October 2020, having fallen to Casper “cadiaN” Møller‘s troops in their past two meetings in DreamHack Masters Spring and Flashpoint 3.
Emil “Magisk” Reif helped Astralis kick things off on Inferno, securing a quad kill with the Galil to ensure a successful second round force-buy for his side, momentum which they converted into a 7-2 lead. Despite the strong start, Astralis‘ attacking efforts began to stall out, and it was Heroic who clawed back to narrowly edge out a lead at halftime. Following the side swap though, Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander‘s men got back in the driver’s seat, outclassing Heroic with their CT rotations and retakes to swiftly reach match point before taking the map over the line, 16-11.
The onset of Overpass unfolded in similar fashion as Astralis recovered from an early deficit by winning eight rounds in a row, continuing to shut down Heroic‘s uninspired T side efforts. cadiaN and company finally found their footing toward the latter portion of the first half, bringing themselves within one round of their Danish countrymen, but once again Astralis seized early control after the break to pull ahead 12-7. It took a quad kill from cadiaN to get Heroic back in the running, with the team going on to add another two rounds to their tally, but Astralis remained unrelenting as they kept Heroic engaged in a back-and-forth trading of rounds before converting their lead into a map victory on round 28.
Meanwhile, Virtus.pro saw to the elimination of NIP in the lower bracket of Group A, putting an end to any IEM Cologne playoff dreams for the No. 5-ranked team in the world following a relatively one-sided series that was closed out in two maps (16-9 Ancient, 16-11 Inferno).
Ancient, NIP‘s map pick, did not go as the Swedish side would have hoped. A strong start from Timur “buster” Tulepov and contributions from Dzhami “Jame” Ali kept Virtus.pro in the lead for much of the first half, which they ended up 9-6. Any hopes of an NIP comeback were put to bed not long after the side swap as Virtus.pro chained together six rounds right off the bat to attain match point, and Jame‘s side wasted little time before taking the map home, 16-9.
The Swedes seemed to be back in form to kick off Inferno, with Linus “LNZ” Holtäng getting 9 unanswered frags in the first three rounds for his team to take an early lead. However, it wasn’t long before Virtus.pro were once again on the war path, and mutli-kill rounds from Alexey “Qikert” Golubev and Mareks “YEKINDAR” Gaļinskis were key in leading a nine-round spree for the CIS side en route to a 10-5 lead at the half. A pistol win and subsequent conversions, including an immediate answer to Virtus.pro‘s first gun round victory, gave NIP the chance to close the gap and almost seize back the lead, but Jame stepped up and shut out Hampus “hampus” Poser‘s troops in the final portion of the map to take the map over the line for Virtus.pro.