While SK Gaming is widely accepted to be the best CS:GO team in the world, Team Liquid, while best in North America, is still often ridiculed for their “NA CS” foibles. Despite that, an argument could be made that they more than earned their spot in the Grand Final of ESL One Cologne 2016. The same couldn’t be said about SK Gaming. It’s fair to say that their road to the Finals was quite easy, actually. At least on paper. Think about it, the only truly strong team they faced was G2 Esports. The rest? FaZe Clan, which only got to that point after winning a close Bo1 against Fnatic. Then, they faced Flipsid3 Tactics which managed to upset NiP and Virtus.pro. Sure, all these teams are strong, however, they are not up to the caliber of Natus Vincere, which Team Liquid defeated in Quarter-finals or Fnatic, which got 2:0’ed by TL in the Semis. Despite that, the Grand Final matches were convincing.
Game 1: Train
SK Gaming had a great start to the first map of the Grand Final by winning the pistol round. To surprise of… nobody, they had the next 2 rounds in the bag as well, when the first gun round started. G2 got that one, but SK didn’t lose their heads, answering right back. In the following round, coldzera pulled through for his team 1v2, planting the bomb and finishing off Hiko and jdm64. SK 5:1 Team Liquid. For the rest of the first half, Team Liquid went on a bit of a streak, getting 6 points to SK’s 3, making the score 8:7 in SK’s favor.
If the Americans wanted to have a chance at winning the map, they had to win the pistol round, as SK proved to be good at executing anti-eco plays. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened. What happened next was quite disheartening if you were a Liquid fan. SK crushed their opponents on eco rounds, getting points when they finally scrounged up enough money to buy proper guns and then continuing to play superb anti-eco. Basically, Team Liquid got systematically choked out on the second half of Train.
Game 2: Cobblestone
After the first map, Team Liquid learned their lesson (it’s a turn of phrase, they knew that winning pistol rounds is good, of course) and won pistol by exploding the bomb. The same happened on the second round too. The third wasn’t as successful, however. 1v2 at B, Hiko fell to FalleN and coldzera, giving SK their first point of the match. After that, SK tied up the score and got rolling, only giving up 3 more points in the first half, making the score 10:5 in SK’s favor before the second pistol started.
Team Liquid’s pistol round woes continued on Round 16. Left 1v1 vs. fnx, nitr0 used a controversial smoke that probably gave cover to his opponent instead of providing the American with an advantage. Fnx used it to the max, winning the round for his team. SK showed once again that they’re good at anti-eco and strategic play, only giving up one round throughout the half, finally winning the match 16:6 and becoming ESL One Cologne 2016 Champions.
A second Major in a row. If there was any doubt that SK is the best CS:GO team in the world right now, it should have been put to rest after this tournament. While a victorious Grand Final against a true Top 5 team would have sent a clearer message, the fact of the matter is that Team Liquid DID take out the 3rd and 5th best teams (according to HLTV.org ranking) in the world on their way to the finals, meaning that their best is better than these teams’. TL played well, however, it wasn’t enough to stand proud vs. the Brazilian Juggernaut.
The sad thing is that SK didn’t even bring something extra amazing in this Grand Final. They didn’t need to. The average SK was enough. THAT is a true champion. When you can win a Championship playing on your average level, you know that you truly deserve it. Yes, TL could have probably upset SK if they played even better than they did against Na’Vi or Fnatic, but that wouldn’t make them the true Champions. The true greats can defeat their challengers on their worst day. Or so Ronda Rousey says.