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"We never really gave up": Astralis lower bracket run at Six Invitational 2023 ends in top four despite group stage struggles

The North Americans seemed to hit their stride at nearly the perfect time.

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“We never really gave up,” said a proud David "iconic" Ifidon after Astralis’ elimination from the Six Invitational 2023 by G2 Esports. “For the future, it’s just like… the only way is up.”

Astralis made it to the top four of the Six Invitational in incredible fashion, having only managed a fourth-placed finish in their group. They had suffered three losses, with the only team that they beat hailing from APAC.

“Yeah, I mean, biggest thing in that group stage was a lack of execution,” said Astralis coach Seth "Callout" Mik. “We had the way to beat some of these teams and then we just failed to execute on the game day itself.”

Instantly put in the lower bracket, they were one of the favourites to be eliminated right then. Instead, it was Heroic, FaZe Clan, Team Liquid, and Soniqs that were knocked out -- the latter at Astralis’ own hands.

Astralis eventually went on to knock out four teams, including both the European 2022 Six Major champions, Team BDS and KOI. But their Cinderella run finally came to an end today at the hands of G2’s ‘God-Emperor’ coach Fabian "Fabian" Hällsten, who had never lost to a North American team.

A key strength of Astralis during their lower bracket run had been their extraordinary ability to clutch rounds from massive man disadvantages -- think 1v3 situations, or even a 1v4 or two. Against BDS, each of their players were individually worse by SiegeGG Rating than the worst BDS player, but they won nine clutches. Against KOI, it was similar, but with five clutches instead.

Coming into this matchup, though, they were up against near-equals. While Astralis had won a total of 26 clutches throughout the tournament, G2 had won 22.

“A lot of people don’t know we have a guy on our staff -- Landon “Vertex” Gorbenko -- he’s our performance coach,” shared Callout. “He’s done an excellent job, I think. Kind of adding in some of the intangibles to the players when it comes to, like, pressure management.”

Iconic agreed, praising his performance coach as “one of the best in the business” for having helped all the Astralis players “have ice in [their] veins” during clutch situations.

He pointed out how working with Vertex has helped him and his teammates control their emotions better during clutches -- like his ace clutch earlier today -- and also after. A player after a clutch is naturally energised and excited but must focus again for the next round.

“It’s more about, like, trying to control that emotion, you know, so you don’t burn out,” stated Iconic. “After it’s just kind of re-centering and refocusing and, like, continuing on with the game plan and not letting, like, your ego get the best of you.”

Astralis had less success with clutches today against G2 but still managed three. Unfortunately for them, the clock had struck midnight, the magic ran out, and they lost 7-8, 5-7.

“I think one of the biggest things in the Chalet defensive side, you saw that round we were up 6-5 and we had the four-three (man) advantage… I think that that was kinda the key turning point,” said Callout of where he felt Astralis had the match slip from them.

Meanwhile, the second map of Theme Park was lost after Astralis started out “slower” on the attack. The North Americans pushed things to the 12th round, but it was too late and G2 closed out a 2-0 win on-course to the lower bracket final against Oxygen Esports and a place in the grand-final.

Regardless of their exit, Astralis certified themselves as a top-four team in the world with their Cinderella run and will look to build upon that momentum with the start of the 2023 season shortly.

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