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Underdogs CAG struck hard on day one - but can they retain their momentum?

CAG got a chunk of the points they need to finally push through.

Photo via Ubisoft/@Kirill_Vision

CYCLOPS athlete gaming has come into the Charlotte Major as underdogs -- they’ve failed to impress in their past four international appearances, where they never made it out of the group stages. 

Their appearance in Charlotte is arguably more important than it may seem at first glance when realizing they are the only Japanese team and only APAC North team at the event.

“There is pressure, obviously, but we play to play our own game and that’s the only thing [that matters],” said Reon “Anitun” Sakai, through a translator, when asked about the expectations upon their shoulders.

Internationally, expectations are significantly more muted. Only 38% of SiegeGG audiences predicted them to beat XSET, while that dropped to 12% for the Team Liquid game. While Team Liquid was a beast too fearsome to tame, XSET was dispatched in an impressive fashion that bucked the trend of an opening-game loss CAG had exhibited in all prior Majors.

“We believe that our weak point was that opening game, we didn’t have much luck with that until now,” said CAG coach Fumiya “Fuji3” Fujisaki through the translator, echoing his analyst’s pre-event words. “So our main point was to focus on winning this opening game to give us some momentum.”

On paper, Group B seems to be ideal for CAG given that it effectively has three Brazilian teams, whose play styles are good targets for the Japanese to exploit. Speaking through the translator, Hirayama “Ayagator” Taiyo agreed, saying that playing against aggressive teams like the Brazilians works well when they peek into CAG’s waiting crosshairs.

At the same time, he also expanded upon CAG’s “aggressive” label, expressing that wildly swinging around corners and taking every gunfight was not the only thing his own team was proficient at and that it was different from how the Brazilian teams play.

“We might seem to be an aggressive team, but what we like to do is to make the other team annoyed,” he said. “We try to make them peek, to just basically make them irritated. We do believe that the Brazilian aggressiveness is not similar to our aggressiveness.”

Despite that strong start against XSET, CAG crashed down to Earth the very next hour after taking a 2-7 hit against Liquid. The key difference, said Hideki “GatoRada” Nishida through the translator, was that Liquid plays far more patiently compared to XSET -- swinging with much more measured aggression -- and the few minutes of downtime was not enough for his team to adjust. The rematch will see CAG far better prepared, he said.

Now, CAG have to take on FURIA for the first time this event tomorrow, before going up for the rematches against XSET and Liquid. XSET they have already beaten, while Liquid look mortal after a 5-7 loss to FURIA.

Against FURIA, the Japanese feel their years of experience together has given them an almost “telepathic” understanding of each other and that it will be an advantage over the Brazilians. Not only that, CAG seem like they have FURIA figured out, with Takuma “SuzuC” Nakajima stating that his team sees many similarities in play style to domestic rivals in Japan. That familiarity, he said, has given CAG self-assurance and has allowed them to prepare well for FURIA.

But with all four teams in Group B now on three points, it is anyone’s guess at this point as to whether CAG will achieve their dream of securing a playoffs spot for the first time ever.