The Intel Extreme Masters Katowice playoffs are set to begin with the best-of-three quarterfinals on Friday. Only two teams will advance to the semifinals where Natus Vincere and Heroic await their opponents. The second quarterfinal will see FaZe Clan squaring off against Gambit Esports.
FaZe Clan have had an event marred by COVID-19 cases and protocols, but managed to rally all the same. Meanwhile, Gambit, the defending champions from IEM Katowice 2021, are looking to make a repeat happen. The match between FaZe and Gambit will begin Feb. 25 at 1:00 p.m. ET.
Group stage results
FaZe played the start of their IEM Katowice group stage with Justin “jks” Savage as a stand-in for Robin “ropz” Kool, who was temporarily barred from travelling to the event because he’d contracted COVID-19. Nevertheless, FaZe put together an upper bracket run that took them past Team Liquid and Fnatic before falling short to Na’Vi.
Ropz was able to return in the later stages of groups, only for Håvard “rain” Nygaard to test positive instead. Luckily he was able to play the final matches of the group stage quarantined in his room. If he can produce a negative test before playoffs begin, he should be able to re-join the team. Otherwise jks may have to step in again in the Spodek.
As for Gambit Esports, they started with a surprising loss to the Ninjas in Pyjamas. From there, they beat the Copenhagen Flames, Team Vitality and then won the rematch against NiP to claim their quarterfinals berth. Sergey “Ax1Le” Rykhtorov and Dmitriy “sh1ro” Sokolov were both top performers during the group stage.
IEM Katowice quarterfinals
FaZe vs. Gambit pits two very different teams against one another. FaZe is the international lineup riding the momentum of the ropz acquisition from MOUZ. They’re looking to re-establish themselves as a top three team in Tier 1 Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
“From our scrim results I felt like we were in that top three team area,” FaZe’s Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken said in the quarterfinalists press conference. “But now it’s hard to say because we haven’t practiced with [ropz] in a while.”
Although Gambit were the more successful team in 2021, the story of LAN vs. online is very much in play between the two squads. Unlike this current iteration of Gambit, FaZe Clan are a team that has excelled in LAN environments.
“The LAN buff for FaZe Clan always has existed,” Twistzz said. “I think this is by far the biggest crowd event we’ve had in the past two years. Everyone on this team plays under the pressure well. People can expect a good FaZe Clan showing in our playoffs.”
One big talking point on the FaZe side will be in-game leader Finn “karrigan” Andersen, who struggled individually during the IEM Katowice group stage. Still, the veteran Dane said he is confident that he can bounce back individually. He also mentioned Gambit’s inexperience on LAN as a factor that may help FaZe.
“Every time we play [Gambit], it’s always a tough game,” karrigan said.
As for Gambit, the team is not getting in their own heads over the prospect of playing in the Spodek arena in front of fans. The team’s one veteran, Abai “HObbit” Hasenov, certainly knows what to expect.
“The first problem is with sound, with the noise of the crowd,” he said. “We need to adapt for it. If we adapt well, we’re just going to play our game and hopefully everything will be good.”
Like FaZe, Gambit also gave a lot of respect to their opponents and specifically ropz.
“I think [FaZe are] really good now at playing,” Ax1Le said. “I think the ropz switch with [Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer Gustafsson] was a really good transfer…I think they can be a top two team this year.”