With the conclusion of the ESL Pro League Season 17 Group stage, we can safely say it’s been the most insane few days of CSGO in a long time. It’s been an odd watch as forZe and ENCE topped ESL Pro League Group D, with NAVI and Liquid slipping through by the skin of their teeth. There’s a lot to talk about, so let’s go over the highlights of Group D.
While NAVI didn’t exactly shine, s1mple’s performance was back up to his usual GOAT level. NAVI needed s1mple to step up, as we mentioned in our ESL Pro League Group D preview. And he did, frequently grabbing the team by the scruff of the neck and carrying them to victory.
After losing their first game to forZe, it appeared that NAVI would be in one of those tournaments. However, the close defeat would not be forgotten as forZe went on to win Group D 3-0. NAVI went undefeated through the lower bracket after that, thanks to s1mple’s performance. They never looked like they were going to leave the tournament early, but even they would admit it wasn’t their best performance.
Ultimately, s1mple can’t do it all, and if NAVI wants to win the ESL Pro League, they’ll need to see more from their entire roster of stars.
Meanwhile, Liquid will compete in the ESL Pro League playoffs, but they can’t be happy with how they got there. After the first match, a loss to Rare Atom, it appeared that Liquid was already making excuses. YEKINDAR publicly criticized the team’s tournament preparation.
After losing to Team Spirit, they were demoted to the group’s Last Chance phase. They exacted their vengeance on Rare Atom and defeated an Astralis roster about whom the less said the better. We get the impression that an unlucky draw could have seen Liquid exit ESL Pro League Group D, and the team has a lot to work on.
With the playoffs starting on March 21st, they have little time to fix any major issues. However, it could work in their favor. Many of the best CSGO teams from earlier in the tournament, such as Heroic and G2, will be slightly rustier, whereas Liquid will be fresh off a few days of Counter-Strike. All they can hope for is to be able to play themselves out of any bad habits they may have.
ESL Pro League Group D was all about the underdogs’ stories. Rare Atom were the ultimate underdog, defeating Liquid 2-0 in their first match to win hearts and minds. It was their zenith, losing every other match before collapsing, but it was entertaining while it lasted. After winning their first map against NAVI, it appeared that they might go one step further.
The fact that they lost every other match hurts their overall performance. Each of the teams they lost to, ENCE, NAVI, and Liquid, eventually qualified, so it was due to an unlucky draw that they found themselves on an early flight home from Malta.
Rare Atom had a lot to like, and they’re worth keeping an eye on in the future. For fans of the mostly-Chinese roster, JamYoung and Kaze in particular provided some of the most exciting moments.
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