Image: Ubisoft/Eric Anamalay
This week will mark the penultimate APAC North play day for the entire year, with Stage 3 barrelling towards an end.
- 6:30PM JST -- Spear Gaming vs DWG KIA
- 7:45PM JST -- CYCLOPS athlete gaming vs SANDBOX Gaming
- 9:00PM JST -- FAV gaming vs REJECT
- 10:15PM JST -- Talon Esports vs Fnatic
The day will start off with an intra-Korean match that may give Spear Gaming the chance to win their second game of the stage. DWG KIA have been in shocking form, having helped FAV gaming end an 11-game losing streak last week, but could be in further trouble today.
Heo "CATsang" Se-woong has apparently been called up for his mandatory National Service in the military next month and is set to sit out the remainder of the games in APAC North and the Korean Open. Last week, Park "PJH" Jae-hyun already played in his place in the Korean Open playoffs and could do so again today.
FAV gaming will also take on REJECT in another intra-region matchup, with FAV keen to follow up their momentuous win over DWG KIA last week with a second today. REJECT will not be easy opponents and took seven points off CAG, SANDBOX, and DWG KIA, but nearly lost all three points to Talon Esports last week.
The day will end will a clash between Talon themselves and Fnatic. Talon are out of the Major fight, but could still want to play spoilsport as their opponents are still in the race -- though just about. Their matchup could end up being a dead-rubber, though, depending on earlier results.
The key result they will want to look at will also be the match of the day; a top of the table clash between CYCLOPS athlete gaming and SANDBOX Gaming.
Both CAG and SANDBOX can qualify for the Major today
It is only the penultimate day of a very short APAC North Division, but both CAG and SANDBOX can very realistically secure their places at the Jönköping Major today.
An overtime loss to SANDBOX would leave CAG on 15 points and would seemingly qualify them for the Major, as they hold the head-to-head over REJECT -- the primary tiebreaker in APAC. However, both REJECT and SANDBOX will still be able to finish with 15 points to create a head-to-head ouroboros.
As such, CAG will need FAV to take at least one point off REJECT later to qualify, or will need to win against SANDBOX (whether in overtime or in regulation time) to secure qualification rightaway.
Should they only secure one point in an overtime loss to SANDBOX Gaming, the Koreans will finish the day with 14 points. They can secure qualification today as well with this result, but will also need additional luck from FAV, who will need to beat REJECT (either in regulation time or in overtime).
In this scenario, CAG would finish the day at 15 points, SANDBOX at 14 points, and REJECT at 10 or 9 points. With just one match left for every team next week, this would lock CAG and SANDBOX into the top two, no matter their final play day results.
CAG are SANDBOX's toughest opponents
Since 2021, both teams have clashed a total of six times:
- APAC North Stage 1 2021 -- 7-4 to Cloud9 (now SANDBOX) on Oregon
- Six Invitational 2021 -- 7-5 to Cloud9 on Consulate
- APAC North Stage 2 2021 -- 7-1 to CAG on Chalet
- APAC North Stage 3 2021 -- 7-5 to mantisFPS (now SANDBOX) on Oregon
- APAC North Stage 1 2022 -- 7-2 to CAG on Skyscraper
- APAC North Stage 2 2022 -- 8-7 to SANDBOX on Theme Park
Both teams teams have been duking it out against each other for years, with the core of SANDBOX having been together since the 2020 season against a CAG that has been unchanged since the end of 2019.
SANDBOX have actually been the superior team to CAG, winning four of the six engagements, but each of their wins have been close -- the "easiest" matchup for SANDBOX was a 7-4 win, while their most recent game (and most recent win) was in maximum overtime.
Conversely, the two times they have lost in the past two years, CAG have crushed them without much effort. That may be the case yet again today, as CAG are in hot form this stage, while SANDBOX lost to REJECT and barely hung on against Talon Esports.
SANDBOX are not too far behind individually
The statistical leaderboards have been dominated by CAG for the most part in Stage 3. The Japanese team have seen a massive return to form, while the Koreans have struggled significantly more than in 2021.
Sho "BlackRay" Hasegawa has been the best player in APAC North this stage, with a league-best SiegeGG Rating of 1.45 and a league-best K-D of +34. The closest player to him has been his teammate, Taiyo "Ayagator" Hirayama, who is second in both categories at a 1.34 Rating and +25 K-D. Ayagator has also been the most impactful player, with a KOST of 85 percent.
But SANDBOX also have two players in the top-five in multiple categories. Lee "GoodBoy" Ji-heon is not far behind BlackRay and Ayagator with a SiegeGG Rating of 1.33, a K-D of +21, and a KOST of 76 percent.
His teammate, Han "Static" Chan-yong, is fifth-best with a 1.19 Rating and +9 K-D, as well as a 76 percent KOST. Song "SyAIL" Dong-seon has also been impactful in entry engagements, with a +4 split so far.
The form and points advantage is definitely in CAG's favour, but SANDBOX are not far behind and also have the historic advantage. This game could have fireworks if the Koreans step up, having already had a keen eye on this match two weeks ago.
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