Team Liquid battled hard in a back-and-forth final game versus FaZe Clan to make playoffs at IEM Katowice 2023, an improvement on their showing at BLAST Spring Groups. With a big scalp under their belt and some strong performances now behind them, we caught up with Keith “NAF” Markovic after the FaZe game to discuss Liquid’s expectations going forward in the tournament and for 2023 as a whole.
Sam “AN1MO” McKenzie, BLIX.GG: You’re back in the Spodek for the first time since 2020. What are your expectations?
Keith “NAF” Markovic: I think with how we’re playing recently, especially after last year, we had a lot of good results outside of the Rio Major. Some top twos, top fours, and one top 6; we wanted to bring all the progress we made in the last year into this year, so I think our expectations for this year are to at least get some trophies. I think if we were to end this year without any trophies, it would be a massive disappointment. Right now, of course, we’re happy to make the main playoffs, but we would appreciate it a lot more if we could go deeper and win a trophy.
BLIX: You beat FaZe to make the playoffs. What does that mean for the team’s confidence?
NAF: It’s huge. I believe on Inferno, I messed up, I played my two clutches wrong, and those are big rounds to win, and they didn’t go my way. There were some rounds when karrigan called halls pops and I was in transition of doing something, and they caught me off guard both times, so when we lost Inferno, I felt a lot of responsibility and disappointment in myself, so going into Overpass it’s about blocking that out and trying to reset. Overpass was our map pick, and we were playing pretty confidently, and everything went well. Mirage, you know, we had a strong T side, and then they came back and made it 11-10, and I think a lot of us were losing pace, but we all stayed in it, but we had some good calls, some good reads. Damien [daps] had a good call about placing oSee to AWP ticket, and we just adapted later on in the half to figure out how to play and get the right kills. In the end, it was a grind, it was a brawl, but luckily we were able to come out with the victory.
BLIX: FaZe has been struggling for a while now. What do you think their issue is?
NAF: I’m not really sure. I believe they honestly have a really sick lineup, and you can see that in their past results from last year. I don’t even want to think about a roster change for them or anything like that. I don’t know; maybe there are just some personal issues for themselves. I know rain just had a baby, and they had to put es3tag in as a stand-in at BLAST, so I don’t think they’re at 100% right now. At the end of the day, they’re a super-stacked lineup, and they're all super-talented players; they’ve been a consistent top-three team for like a year now. It’s hard. Making it to the top is one thing, but staying consistently on top is completely different. So, I think they’re still doing great. I think they came up a little short here; the game was a grind, and it was a brawl, but I think we’re just a little more hungry as a team because, as individuals, we haven’t achieved much in the recent years, so we’re really hungry to climb back to where we were in 2019. I’m not too sure what to say about FaZe, they played good, and they’ve played better, but at the end of the day, we’ll have to see.
BLIX: You struggled in BLAST Spring Groups recently. What’s changed between then and now?
NAF: I think BLAST Groups, we were experimenting a little bit because, in BLAST, you get a lot of chances. I think we beat ourselves in the ass at BLAST, but then again, I don’t know if I can say that because I feel like a lot of the things we did there gave us a good eye on what we needed to do here in Katowice and I feel like a lot of things we worked on there helped us achieve what we’ve done here against FaZe and the other teams. We need to keep going and see, but we learned a lot from BLAST, and unfortunately, we didn't qualify, but at least we have a Showdown to redeem ourselves.
BLIX: You’re next opponents are Vitality. What are your feelings for that game and particularly ZywOo? Do you think the ZywOo vs. oSee battle will be the most important?
NAF: I think a really big thing is that oSee is performing really well right now. At times he was maybe uncomfortable and more inconsistent last year, but he’s really starting to find his stride and his groove now. I can see that Josh [oSee] is playing really well. He’s finding a lot of impact with his AWP and even with his rifle; I remember in the Spirit game, he had a lot of rifle plays. I think he’s starting to feel good. YEKINDAR had a really good series here against FaZe, so he’s feeling good; he’s feeling confident. I think the rest of us are feeling confident, especially with the win over FaZe, so we just have to see. I know Vitality will be a strong team, they have ZywOo so we just have to wait and see. He [ZywOo] seems to be their best performer right now but I haven’t really focused too much on Vitality’s game, so we’ll just have to wait and see but it’s a confident match-up for us.
BLIX: You said a while ago you feel like you’re not so much a star on this roster. Does the same still stand, or have you put more back on yourself?
NAF: I think, at least back in the day, when I was playing 2018/2019, I was playing more rotator roles, more AWP positions as well, switching hybrid constantly. Whereas now I feel like I have strict guidelines to follow, I want to just follow the game plan that Mareks [YEKINDAR] wants to set up and how he wants to play, I play sites with him so I want to play how he’s feeling. Right now, I’m strictly playing anchor roles and just lurking, just doing my thing. I don’t have any involvement in gameplans or anything like that, I just need to show up and perform. At the end of the day, my job is to perform because, besides that, I’m not bringing too much else to the team. I just need to show up, play, anchor the bombsites, get my one or two kills, buy time for the team, and just do my thing. I’m just a lot more restricted individually, but I’m cool with that; I have no issues with doing that; I feel like I’m a very adaptable player, and I can find things where I can get kills and have strong performances. If that's what the team needs from me, then that’s what I need to do. At the end of the day, I just have to play and do my thing, obviously, it’s a lot different from years gone by but if it’s what the team needs from me, it’s what I’m going to do.
Cover Image: PGL/Joao Ferreira
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