Team Liquid finally secure a Grand Final win with IEM Sydney 2019

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IEM Sydney 2019 came to a close with Team Liquid winning 3-2 over Fnatic in the Grand finals. The Finals saw the Swedes competing against the North Americans in a series that went the full distance of five maps. Fnatic showed up in strength and it could very well have been their trophy if they did manage to win the final map. Regardless, the Grand finals were one of the best and most entertaining finals in a very long time.

Team Liquid did not have an easy route to the Grand finals. They had to face multiple adversaries in BIG, NIP as well as MiBr. It was a historic moment for Team Liquid which has lost ten Grand finals in the past were slowly gaining notoriety for being the ‘Chokers’. In fact, ESL’s one-liners regarding Team Liquid taking the lead and being the favourites to win the trophy were not without reason.

Image Credit: GlobalOffensive Reddit.

The Road to the Grand Finals

The Grand finals was a Best of five series between Team Liquid and Fnatic. Team Liquid had a rather easy route to the finals. The Group stage saw them play against BIG. BOOTd[s] and NIP, easily defeating the teams without losing a single map.  This was along with expectations, mostly due to the nature of the team lineup at IEM Sydney. With Astralis absent from the tournament, there was very little to stop Team Liquid from reaching the Grand finals. Their unobstructed run to the Grand finals was a testimony to their strength as a team.

Team Liquid’s results before the Grand finals

team Liquid
Team Liquid
  • BOOTd[S] 16-9
  • BIG 2-0 (16-7, 16-3)
  • NIP ( 16-11, 16-14)
  • Mibr [ Semi-Finals] 2-0 (16-10, 19-15)

The only time Team Liquid had a scare and a chance to lose the map was against Mibr when they went into Overtime on Nuke. Despite having two map points to defend, MiBr still managed to secure overtime after two very close rounds towards the end of the game. However, they secured a clean sweep in Overtime as they won all four rounds and secured victory for themselves.

Their opponents for the Grand finals, Fnatic had a much more difficult path. Their quarterfinals against fellow Swedes, NIP will be remembered as one of the best series in 2019. It was the longest match in IEM history with more than 100 rounds played across three maps. Two maps went into Overtime and it could have been anyone’s game at the very end. For European fans, this close contest between the two Swedish teams bodes good news. Swedish Counter-Strike has had little to no impact in the past few years. With the rise of Swedish teams, we can hope to continue the legacy of strong Swedish teams in Counter-Strike Global Offensive.

Fnatic managed to win over teams such as Heroic, Chiefs, Grayhound in the Group stage. They lost to MiBr 0-2 rather easily and it definitely puts their performance in perspective.

Fnatic’s results before the Grand finals

Fnatic's team
The Fnatic CSGO roster. Image Credit: HLTV
  • Heroic 16-7
  • MiBr 0-2 ( 4-16, 9-16 )
  • Chiefs 2-1 ( 14-16, 16-9, 16-4)
  • Grayhound 2-1 ( 16-2, 16-19, 16-12)
  • NIP [Quarterfinals] 2-1 ( 9-16, 25-23, 20-22)
  • NRG Esports [Semifinals] 2-1 (11-16, 16-8, 10-16)

The Grand Finals

The Grand finals was a Best of Five series, a format which is not common in Counter-Strike. With five maps the map pool for the two teams became the focus of the veto. The Qudos Bank Arena featured a very loud crowd which was not shying away from expressing their love for Counter Strike on stream.

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Cache ( Fnatic wins 16-10)

Krimz of Fnatic
Krimzz had a few great moments on Cache from Forklift in A site. Image Credit: ESL

The first map saw Fnatic take a rather dominating lead against Team Liquid on Cache. At one point in time, the score was 7-0, a huge deficit for the North American side. While they did manage to steal a few rounds, they were never really in control of the map. Fnatic won the map with a 16-10 scoreline and rather easily at that. Team Liquid did not look in great form, maybe it was due to the timing of the match. However, NAF did mention that they were not practising Cache as it was moving out of the map pool after IEM Sydney. In fact, IEM Sydney was the last time we would see Cache in competitive CS: GO for a very long time.

Team Liquid with their ten second place finishes in premier events.
Team Liquid has had ten 2nd place finishes in Premier Events. It was high time for them to break the curse. Image Credit: HLTV

In an interview with ESPN, NAF mentions how bringing on Stewie2k has affected their gameplay. While Stewie2k was able to adjust to TACO’s positioning and gameplay on their T side, on the CT side, things are different. Stewie2K has great knowledge and timing as he knows when to push through smokes or be aggressive. He plays for getting frags, while TACO plays for survival according to NAF. Team Liquid shares many of their responsibilities and the player roles are not set in stone.

Overpass ( Team Liquid wins 16-14)

Stewie2k in action during the Grand Finals

Despite Overpass being Team Liquid’s most confident match, they were not able to crush Fnatic on the map. In fact, they did manage to win the map but it was a very close 16-14 win, not one that would bring the North American squad a lot of confidence.

Fnatic won the pistol round on Overpass but was unable to secure the next rounds. Team Liquid managed to get a good lead and the score was 7-2 after 9 rounds. However, Fnatic did manage a late comeback and brought back the deficit to just 3 rounds. A 6-9 scoreline at half-time is definitely manageable regardless of which side you are playing on. On their T side, after losing the early pistol and the subsequent round, Fnatic managed to win many of their gun rounds. They took the lead at 13-12 and looked very strong going into the 26th round. However, Team Liquid struck back with a triple kill by Elige.

Team Liquid vs Fnatic scoreboard on Overpass
Team liquid had a very even distribution of frags across their lineup. Image Credit: HLTV

Team Liquid managed to win the 30th round thanks to an amazing display by Nitro who managed three kills. The distribution of kills through the North American squad showed why they are one of the best teams in the world. They did not have one single player who was getting most of the frags on the roster. Instead, the entire team was contributing and they were within a few frags of each other on Overpass.  

Mirage ( Another win for Team Liquid 16-8)

IEM Sydney saw a very hype crowd.

After the weak start on Cache and the narrow victory on Overpass, Team Liquid still did not look like they were playing at their full potential after their narrow victory in the 30th round of Overpass. Mirage was an entirely different matter however, as Team Liquid looked like their dominant self once again.

Fnatic had a decent start on the back of the pistol round victory. However, Team Liquid still managed to take the lead on their CT side and win the half with a 9-6 lead. A lot of these rounds were due to clutch victories by Team Liquid after individuals stepped up in a big way for the North American squad.

In the second half of the map, Elige had a very big impact on the T side. Breaking Fnatic’s economy and continuing to pressure the Swedish roster, Team Liquid never allowed Fnatic a foot back into the game. Fnatic was able to win just two rounds in the second half by which time, Team Liquid had already secured the map for themselves. It was a masterful display of tactics and skill from the North American side and Fnatic never really stood a chance on Mirage. The ability of the Liquid players to use their positioning to their advantage was one of the determining factors in the map.

Dust 2 ( Fnatic strike back with a win, 16-6 over Team Liquid)

Fnatic displayed exceptional skill and had a great performance in the Grand finals. image Credit: ESL

Team Liquid seemed to continue from Mirage onto Dust 2 with a stunning ace by Twistzz in the pistol round. The IEM Sydney 2019 MVP award winner was, however, the only player on Team Liquid to have a positive KDA at the end of the map. Team Liquid won the pistol and the subsequent round on their CT side, however, they were not able to stem the flow of rounds for Fnatic.

A 9-6 lead for Fnatic still meant that it was anyone’s game; however Team Liquid was simply absent from the scoreboard in the second half. It was a complete blowout as the North American squad was unable to secure even a single Terrorist round on their T side. Their inability to penetrate the Fnatic defence got some fans worried about their chances for the Grand finals.

Inferno ( Team Liquid secure the Grand finals: 16-9)

Twistzz with MVP award
Twistzz was the MVP for IEM Sydney 2019 with a splendid performance in the Grand finals

A fitting map for an exciting series saw Inferno as the final map. Team Liquid started out on the CT side and came out very strong in the initial part of the map. They were quickly able to secure a 10-2 lead over Fnatic on the CT side as Fnatic seemed quite lacklustre on the map. This map was once the best map for Fnatic in various iterations of their rosters, however, in the finals, Fnatic did not seem to have any impact against Team Liquid.

Team Liquid finished the first half with an 11-4 scoreline after a quad kill by Twistzz with a UMP. It definitely hurt their morale going into the second half which saw Twistzz getting another quad kill in the pistol round. Team Liquid was able to follow it up with two more rounds taking the score to 14-4. After this, it was simply a matter of time when Team Liquid would turn up the ante and secure the map and the series for themselves. A 10 round deficit proved too much for the Swedes to overcome and they lost the map 9-16.

Team Liquid’s victory at IEM Sydney comes after multiple second-place finishes in the recent past. The North American squad needed this victory to firmly cement themselves as the Number 2 team in the world. The close nature of their match against Fnatic definitely exposes multiple weaknesses for the roster. However, the IEM Sydney 2019 victory should help them restore much of their confidence. We hope to see Team Liquid in full force at cs_Summit 4.

The Australian crowd: The real MVP

IEM Sydney Crowd
Sydney had one of the most vocal crowds amongst CSGO events

Sydney put forth a great show with an amazing crowd in attendance. The chants and the very loud crowd definitely got the attention of everyone in the Counterstrike scene. There were even demands for a CS: GO major in the country next year.

While we are not sure that would become a reality anytime soon, there is no doubt that Sydney ranks up there alongside Katowice and Cologne as one of the best venues for IEM events.

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