Vitality brushed aside the Ninjas in Pyjamas (NiP) at the IEM Winter Finals. The French team, playing one of their final tournaments as a roster together, beat NiP quite comfortably in the finals with their most experienced players — shox, apEX and ZywOo stepping up.
After being on the back foot following device‘s absence in the final two matches of the tournament, NiP shocked G2 to make it to the finals, but the Swedish team just weren’t good enough for Vitality.
The win will be all the more sweeter for Vitality, especially after going down in the final of the BLAST Premier Fall Final in November this year. With this win, Vitality will hope to end the year and their tenure as a roster on a high at the BLAST World Finals, but with Natus Vincere back in the mix, it won’t be an easy task.
Vitality vs Virtus.pro
Vitality kicked off the first semi-final on their map pick of Mirage. It was the French who won the pistol round and posted two rounds before Virtus.pro could get started. The CIS team, though, quickly managed to put a couple of rounds together on the back of some strong performances from FL1T, Qikert and Jame, which saw them end the first half 8-7 in their favour.
They started off strongly on their T-side as they took the pistol round and then the following four to go 13-7 up and it was looking very likely that the French team might go down on their map pick. However, they fought back through misutaaa, who had kept them alive in the first half as well, and now with their star player ZywOo and rookie Kyojin stepping up, the French team made an incredible comeback from being 7-13 to take the opening map 16-13, and poetically it was misutaaa who wrapped up the map, ending with an impressive 28 kills with a +11 Kills-Death difference.
On Virtus.pro’s map pick of Vertigo, it was the CIS team who took the pistol round and the following one too. It looked like they were all ready for a third round until ZywOo got a quad kill with his deagle on an eco round for the French and followed it up with another quad kill to give Vitality some much needed momentum. Backed by misutaaa‘s strong show once again and ZywOo doing what he does best, Vitality ended the first half 7-8. Although Virtus.pro managed to put together a couple of rounds on the CT half, misutaaa was unstoppable and the French sealed the semi-final win on the back of some crucial clutches from the veteran shox to wrap up the series 2-0 and reach the second successive final in as many tournaments.
NiP vs G2
G2 were the hot favourites coming into the match, and their chances were given an even better boost when NiP announced that their star AWPer device would be sitting out the rest of the tournament, as the four-time Danish Major champion was not well. NiP roped in phzy from their academy to fill in the shoes of device.
Starting without their highest rated player, most would have counted NiP out, but the Swedes showcased immense grit and resilience to take the fight to the French team. The match got underway on NiP’s pick of Nuke, a map which although they hadn’t been very successful on, G2 fared far worse. It was NiKo who got G2 off to a flying start, and before anyone could take a minute, G2 were 6-0 up on their opponent’s map pick. It was REZ and hampus who managed to pull a few rounds back for the Swedes and the first half ended 10-5 in the French’s favour. REZ, who along with device was instrumental in NiP reaching the semifinals, took the responsibility upon himself, and the youngster pulled out some crucial clutches while hampus‘ calling was critical in NiP’s fight-back. NiP managed to subdue NiKo and no one else from the French team could really match up to his level, and the Swedes pushed the French to overtime where they managed to hold on to their map pick at 19-16, much to the surprise of everyone, especially having been 3-10 down at one point.
G2’s pick of Dust2 didn’t start well for the Swedes either, with huNter- and NiKo making sure the French team took a commanding 12-3 lead in the opening half on their T-side. The Swedes, though, did manage to put a few rounds together on the back of some resistance from Plopski and their substitute phyzy, but the French were just too strong and took the match to the decider by wrapping up Dust2 16-10.
On one of the most iconic decider maps, NiP started on the CT side on Inferno. Bolstered by REZ and es3tag‘s strong show, NiP managed to edge out the opening half 8-7 in their favour. The French, though, once again rode on huNter- and NiKo‘s performances to take six back to back rounds on their CT half to go up 13-8, but es3tag, REZ and their in-game leader hampus turned up just at the right time for the Swedes as they fought back again. hampus‘ calling was critical, as the in-game leader for the Swedes lurked around and made decisive calls that changed multiple rounds on the back of opening kills from hampus. The Swedes eventually managed to hold off the French challenge and take the decider 16-14 and book a place in the finals against another French team.
Vitality vs Ninjas in Pyjamas (NiP)
The action kicked off on NiP’s map pick of Inferno, but it was the French team who got the better start, taking the pistol and the following 4 rounds in row to go 5-0 up. NiP did manage to claw their way back through some strong performances from es3tag and REZ, which saw them edge out the first half 8-7 on their T-side. The Swedes would have hoped to carry that momentum into their CT half, but ZywOo and apEX were just too good for the Swedes and the French almost had a clean sweep in the second half, wrapping up the opening map on the best-of-five 16-10.
It was the iconic Dust2 up next as the map pick of Vitality. The Swedes, though, started well this time, and after taking the pistol, NiP managed to put in a strong first half on the back of some bold calling from their in-game leader hampus. After taking the first half 9-6, the Swedes failed to carry that strong run into their T-side and with the veteran shox and ZywOo stepping up once again, Vitality picked up seven rounds in a row to take the second map 16-10 as well.
Heading into the third map on Nuke, NiP knew it was do or die for them, while Vitality wanted to make it a clean sweep at the grand finals. The French team once again started strongly, heading into a 5-0 lead in no time on their CT-side. Although REZ and Plopski tried to pull a few rounds back for the Swedes and keep them in the finals, the old trio of apEX, shox and ZywOo were just too strong from the Swedish team as Vitality made it a clean 3-0 sweep at the IEM Winter 2021 finals. Vitality’s star AWPer ZywOo, who ended the tournament with a 1.27 rating, was awarded the MVP award.
With this win, the French team—on their last leg with the current roster—secured their first trophy of 2021. Along with that, Vitality also kicked off the fourth Intel Grand Slam season.
For Vitality, though, they will like to sign off with another win and will have the chance at the year’s final tournament at the BLAST Premier World Finals, which gets underway from December 14.