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After Crazy Raccoon were eliminated from VALORANT Stage 2 Masters Reykjavík without having won a single map, Matsuda “neth” Yusuke gave a post-match interview on the Japanese broadcast. The commentators asked him about his final thoughts. Neth, choked up with emotion, gave his answer through tears.

“I wanted to be interviewed as a winner, but… really, in a lot of ways, I was defeated. It’s frustrating. I’m sorry.”

Back at it in Berlin

A few months later, Crazy Raccoon would once again be in attendance at the next international VALORANT tournament. Stage 3 Masters Berlin saw them entering as the second seed from Japan, behind ZETA Division, who had defeated them in the regional finals.

When Masters Berlin began, it seemed  that things might turn out the same way as last time. Crazy Raccoon started their tournament at the receiving end of a brutal stomp from first-seeded European team Gambit Esports. Both maps finished with a 13-1 scoreline, with Crazy Raccoon seeming completely lost. But three days later, they were able to rally in the lower bracket and take out Havan Liberty, the second-seeded team from Brazil. It was a remarkable turnaround brought about by an adjustment in strategy.

Crazy Raccoon make VALORANT Champs, but still have business in Berlin

“Last time, we were more focused on each individual player’s skills,” neth said in an interview following the team’s victory against Havan Liberty. “But this time we adjusted to more of a teamwork-focused playstyle, so that’s why we got the win.”

Crazy Raccoon was able to avoid an early elimination. ZETA Division wasn’t so lucky. As a result, Crazy Raccoon quietly qualified for VALORANT Champions 2021 based on their accrual of circuit points. It was a relief to know that their time competing internationally wasn’t over, but their eyes were fixed firmly on getting their revenge against Gambit.

“We couldn’t get any pistol rounds, and we were afraid because they were the number one team from EU,” neth said of facing Gambit again. “So I’m also still traumatized about that. But I think we can win next time.”

Expectations were low for Crazy Raccoon going into the two teams’ second meeting. Many touted Gambit as having a good chance to win the whole thing, after all. There was no reason to believe that the rematch would be any different than the first one.

However, a different Crazy Raccoon showed up this time. Almost unbelievably, the Japanese squad went up 6-0 in the first map, Ascent – a map that Gambit has a 90% winrate on, according to VLR.GG. Though Gambit was able to find their footing and take it to 5-7 at the end of the half, it suddenly seemed possible that Crazy Raccoon might actually be able to pull off one of the biggest upsets in VALORANT history.

Ultimately, Gambit won Ascent. But the series wasn’t over yet.

Neth during the second match against Gambit. | Provided by VALORANT Champions Tour

Crazy Raccon fall short of making VALORANT history

The two teams went to Icebox next, and things started out in a similar way. Crazy Raccoon came bursting out of the gates and finished the first half up 8-4, with just five rounds separating them from a tiebreaker map. Those five rounds, unfortunately, proved elusive for them, and though they were able to drag the map to overtime, the win slipped through their fingers.

When the match was over, Gambit leapt from their seats in celebration. Timofey “Chronicle” Khromov let out a long, relieved exhalation. It seemed that Gambit hadn’t expected this match to turn out the way it did, either.

On the other side, the atmosphere was far more subdued. Hideki “Fisker” Sasaki buried his face in his hands, his shoulders shaking. Neth’s eyes were shining with tears as the team filed off stage. They buckled under the weight of knowing that they had gotten closer than they’d ever been, but couldn’t quite close it out.

In every esport, there are underdogs from minor regions who work their way up and give the heavily favored teams a run for their money. In VALORANT, Crazy Raccoon represents Japan, a country without a significant history in PC esports. That they were almost able to defeat the number one team out of Europe in their second international tournament is more than anyone expected of them in Masters Berlin and points to their raw potential as a squad.

During neth’s tearful interview following the team’s exit from Masters Reykjavík, one commentator said: “You can return to Japan with your head held high. Don’t apologize.” Crazy Raccoon will always have a region of passionate and devoted fans backing them when it comes to international tournaments like this one, and they’ve shown how capable they are of improving given the time and opportunity to practice.

If there’s anything we’ve learnt from Crazy Raccoon’s Masters Berlin performance, it’s that we shouldn’t count them out when Champions 2021 rolls around. They’re not even close to done.

Crazy Raccoon will compete in Champions 2021. | Provided by VALORANT Champions Tour
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