Two times over the course of this year, Crazy Raccoon Crazy Raccoon Japan Rank #2 popogachi Souta Morita Meiy Ibuki Seki Medusa An Min-cheol makiba Miyamoto Akatsuki neth Yusuke Matsuda trekked from Japan over to Europe to compete in the two offline Masters events of the inaugural Valorant Champions Tour. But both times, they ended up falling short of what they wanted to accomplish.

Crazy Raccoon walking onto stage at Masters Berlin Crazy Raccoon will be Japan's only representative at Champions. Photo by Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games

In Masters Reykjavik, the mixed Japanese and Korean roster bowed out in the bottom two of the tournament. Later in Masters Berlin, they came close to clearing the group stage, but fell to eventual champions Gambit Esports.

As they return to Berlin for one more time for Champions, they will have to carry the weight of the Japanese region as the lone representatives for the keymark event of the VCT, having earned enough circuit points to qualify.

The other two Japanese teams that played in the APAC Last Chance Qualifier, FENNEL and NORTHEPTION, were unable to earn a spot, with the latter coming incredibly close to doing so.

Without the benefit of any precedence in international play, Crazy Raccoon started the year in Valorant as a potential dark horse. It wouldn't be bad to consider that they still can be one. In Reykjavik, they came close to winning their first international match against Version1 before going out to X10 CRIT in the lower bracket.

The teams that they faced in Berlin this September were a different story; most significantly, they stared down the barrel of Gambit's might in the group stage. In their first matchup, they were decimated in two 13-1's on both maps. They then came back from the loss by defeating Havan Liberty in the elimination match 2-0, securing Japan's first ever match win in an international LAN.

They later met Gambit again for a chance to advance to the group stage. Raccoon made the best stand they could, jumping to a 6-0 lead in the first map before losing 13-8; the second map saw them go to overtime, but they ultimately lost to them 14-12 in a 2-0 series defeat.

Can Crazy Raccoon channel a surprise upset at Champions? Photo by Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games

At a time when Crazy Raccoon, and Japan's teams across the board, appeared unable to compete with the world's top teams, Crazy Raccoon had bounced back. They won a match, then they proved themselves capable of threatening — and perhaps, with a few more lucky breaks, upsetting — the team that crowned itself the moment's best in the world.

As the weather becomes more frigid in Germany's capital, Crazy Raccoons will have to garner the confidence to stand out in front of the world's best yet again. And they might have to do it against a familiar foe with Gambit in their group once more.

Their first order of business will be against Team Vikings in their group, who were last seen in Reykjavik placing in the top six. They also face another potential matchup with Team Secret, the new banner of Bren Esports who will make their international debut after being unable to make it to Masters Berlin.

Soon, this will be Crazy Raccoons' last chance to make it or break it. What happened before is in the past. The present is where the final call will be made.