ZETA DIVISION become first Japanese VALORANT team to qualify for Masters playoffs
Provided by Riot Games.

ZETA DIVISION become first Japanese VALORANT team to qualify for Masters playoffs

Japan eliminates Brazil and goes to the top eight for the first time

In the final game of the group stage, ZETA DIVISION reverse swept Ninjas in Pyjamas to make playoffs in the VALORANT Champions Tour 2022 Stage 1 Masters, the first time a Japanese team has done so in the game’s short history.

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Coming into this match, two teams sought to make history. Teams representing both Brazil and Japan had yet to win two games in one international VALORANT tournament, so this series would guarantee the winning region that honor of pulling off that feat. In a back and forth, three map series that ultimately spilled into overtime, ZETA DIVISION pulled out the win over NiP despite looking like they might fall short on multiple occasions.

Japan versus Brazil

On Split, NiP started off strong on defense to win the first four rounds in a row, forcing an early timeout from ZETA DIVISION. They topped that off with a nice 2k Showstopper from Alexandre “xand” Zizi, who was a monster throughout the whole series.

As NiP hit five round wins, ZETA fought back to win three rounds of their own. As NiP tried to stop their momentum, Walney “Jonn” Reis missed key shots in an unseen position only to die and ultimately lose the round in a 4v2 situation. Shota “SugarZ3ro” Watanabe maintained his form from the Fnatic game, earning important kills in that round.

That play led ZETA to tie the game up at 5-5, but a very close final round of the half put NiP on top 7-5. The first round of ZETA’s defense signaled the rest of the map’s direction, as Benjamin “bnj” Rabinovich panic teleported into a safe spot where he could clutch the 1v1 and crack the casters up.

Bnj then provided another clutch 1v1 win, putting NiP up 10-5, before a thrifty win by ZETA attempted to change the momentum. It was all for naught in the end, as NiP won the map 13-6.

ZETA DIVISION fight back on Icebox

No one was sure which ZETA would show up to the second map: the team that lost Icebox to DRX or the team that rolled over Fnatic. The latter would send this match to map three, and that’s ultimately what ZETA delivered.

Off the back of big shots from both SugarZ3ro and Yuma “Dep” Hashimoto, the first two rounds went to ZETA. They used their economy to keep rolling, winning six in a row before losing their first round. As NiP finally won some rounds of their own, map nine showed how one person, in this case Gabriel Luiz “bezn1” da Costa, could solo hold a post-plant position.

Even with that big play, NiP went into the half down 4-8. NiP started to crawl back into it after multiple clutches, but then Dep would secure yet another 4k to take a round. NiP pulled off an insane win on round 22, getting the defuse while losing a 3v1 by a matter of milliseconds. Yet, a good one tap from Koji “Laz” Ushida and a good pit from SugarZ3ro made it a map three game one round later.

The final map of the group stage

Everything came down to Fracture, where NiP started off strong with the pistol win. As racked up the wins, SugarZ3ro seemed to clutch out a round with his Bucky but died to a Molotov from bnj. That sparked ZETA’s mood, giving them their first round win of the map.

Even though NiP kept their lead into halftime, up 7-5, ZETA held on. For example, from back-back post-plants on A, Tomoaki “crow” Maruoka and SugarZ3ro played patiently to secure both rounds.

Off another post-plant, a nice dash and spray into a Viper’s pit by xand put NiP in the driver’s seat to win the series. But then ZETA not only won multiple rounds to bring it back, but got a flawless one on their 11th round win. After a Tenta “TENNN” Asai 4k, the final map went to overtime.

Laz’s early pick onto xand put ZETA onto match point immediately and his clutch kills on the next map won ZETA the series 2-1. The reverse sweep from ZETA now takes them not only to the playoffs but earns them the best performance of any Japanese team in VALORANT history.

“Words can’t express how I feel right now,” crow said after the game. “Even in moments after the game, I keep catching myself thinking, ‘Did we really win?'”

In a post-match Japanese interview with the Japanese casters, Laz couldn’t hold back the tears when the interviewers praised his performance.

After winning two matches in two days, ZETA DIVISION will face G2 Esports on their third consecutive day. Laz even noted that such a gauntlet could be a struggle.

“Three matches in three days is very hard,” Laz said. “I just wish the match starting time wasn’t so late on the day.”

However, even with that challenge, ZETA DIVISION can hold their heads high in the playoffs of Stage 1 Masters.

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Michael Czar
Polish-Canadian game enthusiast. I've been entrenched in gaming for as long as I can remember, with my first game being Pokemon Yellow and my most played games being Borderlands 2 and Overwatch. I have a degree in Film Studies, but writing about esports just makes my job all the better.