NiKo on HooXi proving critics wrong and G2's future in CS2
As the Counter-Strike gods willed it, the final at IEM Cologne turned into a celebration as G2 showcased the game in the best way it knows how to: A dominant Grand Final performance.
Backed by Jan "Swani" Müller, the team’s coach and crowd favourite, due to being the last remaining German on the Grand Finals stage, the roster showed incredible improvements from their previous form, undoubtedly becoming the best team in the Lanxess Arena.
The 18-year-old prodigy Ilya “m0NESY” Osipov also showed off, hard-carrying the final map with an incredible 29 Kills at 111.4 average damage per round.
Through large parts of what might have been the last big moment in CS:GO, the team around tournament MVP Nikola "NiKo" Kovač felt immortal, playing up to a level they only had displayed at the beginning of the year in Katowice.
Long time coming
For the Bosnian star player, it is the first title in the cathedral of Counter-Strike that struck at the eleventh hour. He shared:
“Obviously, it took me, I don't know how many years of trying to win such an event. It's been a rough road getting to this point.
“I'm happy that it's actually happened, and I'm really happy that it's the last IEM Cologne in CS:GO. I feel privileged to be a part of the last year of CS:GO, playing at an IEM Cologne event, but also obviously winning it. It definitely will have a special place in our hearts and probably the many fans out there.”
There are few who can claim to have ever been as consistently excellent as NiKo has been throughout his career in Global Offensive and yet regrets of past unactualised dreams surface in his answers.
Going into detail on some lost rounds during the final and why he was responsible for them to remarks of a lost opportunity at the most recent Paris Major due to a self-perceived personal underperformance, NiKo’s wounds of past battles showed.
A fight well fought
Throughout the event, many teams appeared to surf on the momentum of the moment, with energetic gestures towards the crowd who in turn was eager to reciprocate.
However, after the opening rounds, this back-and-forth seemed to lose steam in most games, as concentration intensified and teams managed their energy levels.
If the volume of the arena and G2’s continuous interaction with it is anything to go by, the eventual winners pushed harder and didn’t leave an inch for their opponent, never taking their foot off the gas.
Once the match turned to map 3 on Anubis, a map ENCE is one of the best in the world on, it could’ve been a viable choice to conserve energy for future maps. Not so for G2, who kept pushing as NiKo explains:
“We definitely gave it our all on Anubis. We are much better than what we have shown. I think we threw away a couple of rounds on CT, which put us in a bad situation. But then on the T-side, we didn't give up. We really tried to push them to the limit.
“I think it's very important in such a game, such a grand final to always pressure your opponents. We didn't give them room to breathe. And towards the end, I probably misplayed a bit on this last round on Anubis, which could have taken us to the overtime, but it is what it is.
“After Anubis, we definitely didn't look back. We just focused on Ancient, and we made a couple of jokes because in Katowice the same happened.
“We were leading 2-0, then we lost Inferno. Then the format was Ancient. So yeah, we were just joking around a bit and we just had a good prep talk on what we want to do and how we should play versus them. And yeah, we just kept calm.
“Obviously, m0NESY had a great game on Ancient, which helped us close it out.”
Security in a volatile future
Given the lack of consistent performances since IEM Katowice, the future of this star-studded roster had not always been certain.
According to a statement by G2’s General Manager Petar "peca" Markovi on HLTV Confirmed, the team considered roster changes but ultimately decided to give them another chance.
One of the most criticised aspects of the roster had been the in-game leader Rasmus "HooXi" Nielsen. According to NiKo, HooXi has beaten the doubters:
“I think he proved them wrong.
“Once again, maybe we did not have the most consistent results since he and Justin [jks] joined.
“For me, winning Katowice and Cologne in one year is already an amazing accomplishment and I'm pretty sure that everyone would agree with it. It’s not something that many players have managed to achieve.
“Winning those two events definitely proves his credibility. He's doing amazing. I'm really proud of him.”
“After this win, he should be even more relaxed and focus more on the team and himself as well.
“I think he's going have less pressure because as I said, this is something that we have accomplished and it’s amazing and it takes a lot of pressure off our shoulders.”
Under the guise of G2 Esports’ CEO, Alban Dechelotte, the team made good on the advance of trust.
Even so, in an interview before the semi-final, Dechelotte expressed his organisation’s concerns for the future. The main culprit? The volatility that Counter-Strike 2 might introduce. He said:
“I'm scared. It took us four years to win a tournament. Despite a lot of investment, despite a lot of changes going from the French crew to the international plan to bringing the cousins. We did a lot.
“The minute we win two tournaments, they announce a new game.”
Dechelotte says his team is generally prepared to make additions or changes if the situation necessitates it and it has the resources to make them happen.
From his point of view, not enough is known about the new game and how the disclosed features such as the smoke change might impact the competitive meta down the line.
When confronted with his boss’ concerns, NiKo agreed partially, though he remained confident in his team’s ability to adapt:
“First of all, I don't think the game is going change too much. But still, we don't know anything.
“We are a hardworking team and hard work always prevails. I think it's more important to have the mentality of winning tournaments than to just have the right kinds of players.
“I think now we are in the right mindset that can win tournaments — such a prestigious tournament as well.
“So going to CS2, that is not going to change. Maybe the gameplay will change a bit, but our mentality is going to remain the same.”
It stands to reason that the results at IEM Cologne have soothed the minds behind G2 Esports' success for now.