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Astralis barely stayed alive at Intel Extreme Masters Cologne 2022, advancing to the group stage after eliminating BIG. Both Astralis and BIG found themselves in the lower bracket of the IEM Cologne play-in stage after taking early losses to 00Nation and Outsiders respectively.

The difference for Astralis this series was Kristian “k0nfig” Wienecke showing up. The 25-year-old Dane has been hot and cold recently, but in the match against BIG he performed like a star. With both halves of Astralis’ fragging duo — k0nfig and Benjamin “blameF” Bremer — hitting their shots, it was too much for BIG to overcome.

The result is a disaster for BIG. The German team would’ve been playing in front of the home crowd had they advanced to the in-arena portion of the event. Instead, they’re heading home early. BIG’s head coach Fatih “gob b” Dayik said the main culprit was pressure and over-excitement.

“There’s a balance: you want it more but you’re afraid to lose it,” gob b said in a post-game interview.

Coming off a first-place finish at the Roobet Cup, where BIG toppled the world no. 1 FaZe Clan, the team had high expectations for Cologne. They were hoping to ride the confidence of the win into the LANXESS Arena, where anything could’ve happened with the support of the crowd. Unfortunately, the swap from online to offline proved too much when it came to nerves.

“I think, to be honest, we probably felt a little bit of pressure,” gob b said. “Communication was a little bit too hectic. I tried to calm it down.”

BIG were playing with a substitute — Nils “k1to” Gruhne in place of Josef “faveN” Baumann — but gob b didn’t necessarily think that it was the reason the team lost. Besides a slightly restricted map pool, k1to’s substitution was less of a factor than the team losing their collective cool.

“We cannot make excuses because I think k1to played really great, had a lot of great in-game calls,” gob b said. “I would not say that we would’ve performed better with faveN. It’s too hard to say.”

While BIG are sidelined, Astralis go on to fight in the IEM Cologne group stage, which begins July 7.