Written By AashirAhmed - 2022-04-22
With the conclusion of today’s matchups, we are officially less than 48 hours away from the Grand Finals of VCT 2022 - Stage 1 - Masters Reykjavík, the first International LAN event of 2022. LOUD win in today’s Upper Bracket matchup guarantees their spot in the Grand Finals, while OpTic Gaming will be given a chance to redeem themselves through the Lower Bracket by facing ZETA DIVISION, who managed to edge a close win against Paper Rex.
Qualifying this matchup as the battle of regions would be accurate considering that both teams are the only remaining representatives of their respective regions. Despite OpTic’s reputation in the Valorant scene, there seemed to be no obvious favourites going into this matchup in part due to the performance put on display by the Brazilian team.
Not only did they obliterate every opponent they had in VCT 2022 - Brazil - Stage 1 - Main Event but have been able to prove their worth on multiple occasions after a win against Team Liquid in their debut matchup and G2 Esports in the subsequent one. On the other hand, OpTic Gaming had a poor start to the tournament but have since managed to bounce back and compete at the highest level possible as demonstrated by their win against The Guard and the Korean giants DRX VS.
Proceedings commenced on Fracture, and OpTic wasted no time in establishing a firm grasp over the momentum early on. One round after another fell to OpTic as they picked LOUD’s defense apart. It was clear why OpTic had decided on starting the matchup on Fracture as the scoreboard read 10-2 by halftime. LOUD just couldn’t catch a break, and regrouping in between halves didn’t seem to help either as OpTic closed out the map within three rounds, all of them being successful defusals. A look at the scorecard for the map reveals mind-blowing performance from Victor "Victor" Wong, who has managed to find success playing Neon, one of the least picked Agents at the event. He finished the map with a fascinating 1.95 Rating, 372 ACS and 3 KD.
The battle then moved onto Ascent, which from OpTic’s previous match against DRX was revealed to be one of their weaker maps and LOUD knew the perfect way to capitalize on this opportunity and return the favor by putting on a show for their fans. However, it didn’t work out as flawlessly as they would’ve wanted since it was OpTic leading the score at half. LOUD had a strong start with a couple of quick rounds but failed continue their performance allowing OpTic to take the charge and finish 7-5 by halftime. As teams switched sides, LOUD awakened their inner beast and channelled their true potential to put up an impenetrable defense taking almost 8 consecutive rounds to finish the map.
With both teams tied and the Grand Finals spot at stake, this matchup was as exciting as it could get. As teams returned to the stage after the break, fans of both regions (NA and Brazil) were locked into their seats holding their breaths every time a spectacular play was made and with players like Felipe "Less" de Loyola Basso performing at their best, there wasn’t a shortage of highlights.
LOUD started Icebox, the decider, with almost six back-to-back rounds putting OpTic in a vulnerable position. However, the veterans had grown accustomed to thrive under pressure and the massive lead LOUD was reduced to a couple of rounds by halftime. Nonetheless, it is worth mentioning that being down early in the matchup was detrimental down the line as LOUD took advantage of the lead and found it easier to expand on it and reach closer to finish line. Given OpTic’s experience, managing six rounds against them wasn’t a walk in the park and by round 23 it seemed like OpTic would force the overtime but Bryan "pANcada" Luna crucial 3K in the final round helped secure their path to the Grand Finals.
The unexpected run of ZETA DIVISION continues. In the Press Conference of the event, Kouji "Laz" Ushida had stated that their our goal for this event was to at least win a “single match” and move forward in the competition. While they did lose their initial matchup against a dominant DRX VS team in the group stage, they manage to make the playoffs. Once again, they encountered defeat against G2 Esports relegating them to the Lower Brackets.
Just when everyone assumed their run had concluded, ZETA bounced back and secured wins against Team Liquid as well as in the rematch against DRX. In contrast, Paper Rex’s journey started from the playoffs, where they faced a brief setback against DRX VS and were forced to find their way from the lower bracket. PRX, however, has since managed to overcome The Guard and G2 Esports to reach this matchup.
It was Icebox, ZETA’s map pick, that witnessed the first scenes of battle between the only remaining Asian teams at the event. Pistol and subsequent round fell to Paper Rex, but Zeta knew better than to let them take the momentum this early on in the map, which is why they strengthened their defensive parameter and with the help of Tenta "ten" Asai much needed 4k start a 3-round streak of their own getting the lead 4-3.
Unfortunately, that round became the only time they had led in the series as Paper Rex finally let loose and take five consecutive rounds to put on a 8-4 score. In the second half, ZETA was able to sneak only a couple of rounds before Paper Rex embarked on another streak, this time to close out the map and gain the upper hand in the matchup.
As the battle now transitioned to Haven, PRX’s map pick, the Japanese fans had started losing hopes but as customary to esports’ tradition, no team should be ruled out till the match is over and ZETA managed to further solidify this statement starting the map with two spectacular streaks, first one spanning over five rounds, and the latter over four rounds. These streaks coupled with a final round allowed them to put a strong 10-2 score putting Paper Rex in a predicament. If the damage done wasn’t enough already, ZETA decided to reduce any further delays by closing out the map after taking three more rounds.
One team would be eliminated from the event, and the other had the opportunity of going to the Lower Bracket finals and Split was the literal decider in this scenario. Just when you thought the stakes couldn’t get any higher, both teams alternated control over the momentum in the first half to reach a tied score of 6-6. This made the remaining 12 rounds subject to the keen eyes of fans of both teams. Paper Rex was fortunate enough to catch ZETA off-guard in the pistol and also manage the next round flawlessly with better weapons in their arsenal. By round 17, PRX were up 9-7 allowing them greater leeway in the following rounds. However, it didn’t matter in the long run as ZETA embarked on a streak of almost six consecutive rounds to close out the series and continue their run into the Lower Finals.
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