With a field of 12 teams being cut in half in this stage of the tournament, the osu!mania 4K World Cup Semifinals proved to bring out some rather intense encounters this week — let's recap all of the highs, lows, and everything in between!
At the conclusion of last week's matches, we had to pay our due respects to four teams — this week, the overall stakes would be substantially higher for those in the Losers Bracket, requiring two wins to make it into the finals.
Additionally, the semifinalist teams in the Winners Bracket also had some serious stakes themselves, as victories in their respective matches guaranteed them acknowledgement as one of the top three teams in this year's competition.
Over the course of eight matches in this semifinal round, all 14 non-tiebreaker maps were selected at least once! Since the start of this tournament, only one song has not received any play at all (Re/IM, during the round of 16), which speaks volumes about how diversified these mappools have been.
I took the time to ask for the opinion of each Mappool Selector to see how their and opinions differentiated; these are some of the excerpts:
juankristal: The song choice was really good for semis, and the mappool covered all skillsets in a pretty good way - or at least in the way we wanted to be, especially on long notes. I am pretty proud of how the long note maps ended up working out. Just a bit sad that we only had three SV maps, but hey, many other maps had some SVs.
Pope Gadget: I think we did a pretty solid job when it comes to not only map variety but song variety as well - quite happy with that. I forget the name of the player, but I think it surprised even us as the map selectors that a player purposefully avoided hitting those LNs (at the end of LaChryma<Re:Queen'M>) in order to focus on the trill. Selecting the map, I doubt any of us were expecting such a strategy to be carried out.
(That player who tactically dropped the long notes would be Cunu, from France - more on that later!)
Blocko: Better than quarterfinals. I think that Semifinals needed more SV maps, but we kinda ran out of luck looking for them. I think it was mentioned that they were a big component in Quarterfinals, plus we were lacking on those kinds of maps on this stage. The tiebreaker is much harder compared to the rest of the pool though, but we managed to keep things interesting and give it a bit of hype (I think).
Surprisingly enough, both the longest and shortest picks in the pool ended up being tied for the most popular — Fele - Peter on Crack (Cut) and The Flashbulb - Passage D both had near squeaky-clean records of seven picks and zero bans, in eight matches! Not too far behind with solid pick counts were 9mm Parabellum Bullet - Punishment and IOSYS - Endless Tewi-ma Park with six picks a piece, and zero bans as well.
Players were not the most fond of the extreme technicality required to perform a few maps, though. Jeff Williams - Time to say Goodbye (feat. Casey Lee Williams) and Parachor's Ekcle - The Impulsive State, found themselves banned in half of the matches this weekend at 4 bans a piece.
Anyone interested in the statistics of this mapoool, or any previous ones, can refer to the osu!mania 4K World Cup statistics sheet.
The Semifinals stage opened the first of eight matches with a showdown between Sweden and Japan. Boasting a stronger roster than the Swedish team, Japan quickly stacked on three points in their first-to-six bout. Looking poised to run away with the match, Sweden managed to halt the Japan steam-roller with a well timed pick of The Flashbulb - Passage D, taking the short technical pick by a relatively small margin. Alas, Sweden's attempts at continued strikes against their opponent were futile, as they were unable to keep up against Japan's final attack and broke their final pick, ending the match in a 6-1 result.
Immediately following that was a contest between China and France, a notable rematch of Group Stage where high-seeded France defeated top-seeded China 4-1, inevitably causing them to not only become second in their group, but also to find a quick exit from the Winners Bracket.
In the second face-off of these two teams, China opened with a relentless assault, taking four of the six required points in the first four songs of the match. With brooms armed and at the ready for sweeping, France denied China the opportunity of a winless bout by responding back with a break point on Kaneko Chiharu - Lachryma<Re:Queen'M>, with French player Cunu tactically missing on the infamous trill/long note combination at the end of the map, reducing the overall damage and securing a solid margin of victory. France continued the response to China's opening with a second consecutive point before being met with resistance, eventually leading to a match result favoring China, 6-2.
The third match of the weekend was the first Winners Bracket match of the semifinal stage, between reigning champions South Korea, and runner-ups Brazil. The match opened up with exceptional intensity — South Korea opened up their match with IOSYS - Endless Tewi-ma Park and was decided by one of the narrowest margins seen in the entire stage, with a distance of just over 2,100 points. With South Korea appearing within strike distance, Brazil would turn to the technical SV pick, C-Show - ERROR CODE in order to capitalize against a noticeably weaker-than-normal team on the backs of cheetose being away for the round.
Unfortunately, the collapse of a lead that peaked as high as 45,000 points in the last 15% of map brought the song in South Korea's favor by just over 3,500 points. With team morale at insurmountable lows, Brazil simply could not get their feet off the ground and succumbed to a 6-0 defeat at the hands of the defending champions.
Following that dominant performance, the next two teams to face off were Poland and Indonesia (or reverse-Indonesia versus reverse-Poland). Given some statistical observations between commonly played maps in the previous round, it would have appeared that Poland had a slight edge on an accuracy front; however, the mappool's significant difficulty increase tipped the scales well in favor of the Indonesia players. Notwithstanding some strange technical difficulties by Indonesia's lpddemon on The Flashbulb - Passage D that ended up conceding a point, Poland found itself generally outclassed by their opponent and simply could not find stable ground, being eliminated from the tournament with a 6-1 defeat.
Continuing on through Saturday's matches, the United Kingdom team did battle against Canada in what would turn out to be an unexpectedly tense match; after barely squeaking by a somewhat shaky Hong Kong roster in dramatic tiebreaking fashion to get to the quarterfinals only to meet the broom against the United States team, Canada came into the match as underdogs against a United Kingdom team that produced a dominating performance against Argentina last week.
That did not stop them from going toe-to-toe with the prospective frontrunners, finding success in long-note oriented picks to equalize the score to 2-2 after four songs. A crucial break point by the United Kingdom on the difficult long-note map, Jeff Williams - Time to say Goodbye (feat. Casey Lee Williams), caused the momentum to shift in their favor; however, it was a short-lived morale shift, as an by exceptional performance by Canada on Fractal Dreamers - Fortuna Redux brought the match within a single point. Sadly, that outstanding performance would be Canada's final hurrah, ending their stay in this year's MWC with a result of 6-3.
The final match of the weekend was the second Winners Bracket match of the stage, between United States and Chile. Upon winning the roll, the Chile team boldly, and incorrectly opted into picking Ekcle - The Impulsive State against a United States team that is well known for not steering away from SV maps, quickly finding themselves into a 1-0 deficit. Opening the match with increased confidence against a potentially threatening Chile team, the United States team continued with unbroken momentum, punishing their opponents song after song until no songs were left to be played, sending Chile to the Losers Bracket after a convincing 6-0 result.
The second half of the Semifinals stage left the four winning teams in the Losers Bracket to fight once more for their shot at the top 6, pitting Japan versus Indonesia, and China versus the United Kingdom to determine the Losers Bracket finalists.
Arguably the most contested match of the weekend, neither Japan nor Indonesia disappointed, clearly attacking one another with their strengths — Indonesia took the long-note path, while Japan took the speed and stamina route. Opening the first four songs of the match at two points a piece, Japan broke a point against Indonesia's speed-oriented long-note pick Fractal Dreamers - Fortuna Redux and appeared to be in great shape to build a substantial advantage.
However, in a sudden turn of events, Indonesia responded immediately with a break of their own on Japan's bursty choice, Kidkanevil - Lantern 1 to restore the match dynamic back to a point-for-point showdown. At 4-3, Indonesia was well on pace to extend the rally with Ekcle - The Impulsive State, only to be met with an unfortunate disaster. What would have likely been a 4-4 result suddenly turned into a 5-3. Japan would then make one final pick to bring the match to an unfortunately bitter end, and take the victory 6-3.
The final match between China and the United Kingdom had all the makings of an intense match, as China opted into a similar strategy reminiscent to Canada's method of attack against the team that led to three wins in the best-of-11 match. The long-note strategy previous employed against the United Kingdom fell short once again, as they managed to strike against China's pick of Fractal Dreamers - Fortuna Redux after an initial trade off to bring the score to 3-1.
Continued trading along the United Kingdom's expected picks of speed and stamina-oriented maps against China's aversion to them brought the match to 5-2, arriving at match point on China's pick. Aiding in the final blow, SV-specialist Traps Are Cute was substituted into United Kingdom trio to come in for their only map in the entire semifinal stage, putting on an impressive showing on the extremely difficult C-Show - ERROR CODE, delivering a fatal blow to the tune of 65,000 points, concluding the match with a 6-2 result in favor of the United Kingdom team.
As usual, if you have missed any of the matches for the past weekend, all VODs of the matches can be found on the official osulive Twitch channel.
This weekend, we paid our respects to six teams finding themselves eliminated at this stage of the tournament: Sweden, France, Poland, Canada, Indonesia, and China have all played their final matches this weekend.
The tournament is nearing closer and closer to its conclusion as we arrive at the second-to-last weekend with these upcoming matches.
In the Winners Bracket will be the defending champions, South Korea, facing off against 2015's champions and 2016's third place finishers, the United States.
Both teams have arrived in the Winners Bracket finals with perfect records in the knockout stage, but as with any competition, that history must be tarnished in order to progress through the tournament. As a result of being in the Winners Bracket finals, both teams have secured themselves a minimum of third place.
The United Kingdom and Japan teams have progressed in the Losers Bracket as a result of their well-played matches, where they will face off against Brazil and Chile respectively in their first of three steps to climb back to the grand finals, where the winners of those corresponding showdowns will face each other. From there, they will await their opponent based off of the results of the Winners Bracket match between the South Korea and United States team, facing off against the loser for the chance to take out the winner in the Grand Finals.
Join us on the osu!live Twitch channel starting at 14:00 UTC on Saturday, September 9th for the first two Losers Bracket matches! Japan and Chile will begin week 1 of the Finals, fighting each other on this brutally difficult Finals mappool. Immediately after that will be the United Kingdom and Brazil teams fighting it out to push their way through the bracket.
There may only be two weeks left in the tournament, but that is still more than enough time to get a banner and show support for your team! Remember, any banners that get purchased help to support the funding of the prize pool for the competitors that you are showing support for, a worthy cause.
That concludes the recap of the Semifinals stage this week. I'd like to give a special shoutout to mangomizer for the nice format utilized in the Quarterfinals — thanks a lot! As always, feel free to comment with your thoughts about the recap; we're always looking for suggestions to make this better.