IEM Katowice is well into the group stage now and we take a look at Natus Vincere and their prospects in advancing in the tournament. We also had a quick chat to s1mple about returning to form after the player break that was so long.
After dominating throughout the latter half of 2021, big things are expected from Natus Vincere in 2022, who entered this event without a single roster change. Their form in the BLAST Spring Groups simply wasn't up to that same standard, where they barely managed to qualify for the Spring Finals despite losses to MIBR, Astralis, and the Ninjas in Pyjamas. IEM Katowice will be played on LAN, however, which may be the secret to success that Na'Vi needs.
We were able to talk with Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev about the team's break at the end of 2021, and their performance upon returning to the server:
s1mple: We had such a long break - first time we have had such a long break. It was hard to get back to where we were winning and crushing everyone. So of course we need some time. It was especially hard because it was online, our team likes to get better form at LAN from game to game. I think we are coming back to a better and better level of performance.
In Natus Vincere's opening match of the tournament, they were struck with the same inconsistency that plagued them at BLAST. They took the first map off their opponents, ENCE, with a strong 16-8 scoreline. The international underdogs would be quick to respond, however, absolutely dominating Na'Vi 16-4 on their map pick of Nuke — handing them only their second loss across twenty-seven games on the map. Both teams would drag the other through all thirty rounds of the final map, Overpass, but Na'Vi would ultimately take the victory.
Clutching onto their position in the upper bracket, Na'Vi now advances to face FURIA Esports. FURIA looked fully in control on both maps against Astralis, and, unlike Na'Vi, advanced to this stage with relative ease. These squads haven't played one-another since May of 2021, where Na'Vi took a 2-1 victory. With the addition of Rafael "saffee" Costa, FURIA look to get revenge for that past defeat — and unless Na'Vi can remember why they're so feared, the Brazillians very well could.