Korea may face Japan, Taiwan, Cuba in WBC

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Korea may face Japan, Taiwan, Cuba in WBC

Korea will likely have to outplay at least two of three baseball powerhouses - Cuba, Japan and Taiwan - to be able to secure its third consecutive berth to the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic.

World Baseball Classic, the operator of the now quadrennial event, announced on Tuesday the details of the pools, formats and venues for the third-ever tournament to be held in March of next year.

According to the company, Korea, the runner-up in the 2009 event, has been paired with Australia and the Netherlands in Pool B in the first round. The other vacant seat in the pool will be filled by the winner of the 4th qualifier, which is likely to be Taiwan. Taiwan will play the Philippines, New Zealand and Thailand in November’s qualifier.

Two-time champion Japan is in Pool A with Cuba, China and a to-be-determined winner of another qualifying round.

Venezuela, which finished third in 2009, is assigned to the Pool C, as are Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. The United States, fourth place in 2009, are in Pool D together with Mexico and Italy.

The first round features a round-robin format and the two strongest teams in each of Pool A and Pool B will meet each other in the second round with the same method applied to pools C and D.

Many local baseball analysts expect Korea to be one of the four teams to advance from Pool A and B to the second round as well as Japan, Cuba and Taiwan, all formidable opponents.

Japan has won both previous titles, beating Korea in a crucial games each time. Korea has exchanged four victories and four losses with its archrival during the two previous World Baseball Classics, but it lost to Japan in the semifinals in 2006 and lost in the finals in 2009. In 2006, Korea finished third after beating the Dominican Republic in the third-place decider.

The first-round games for Pool B will be held in Taichung, Taiwan, from March 2-5. The second round will be held from March 7-10 in Tokyo or March 12-16 in Miami. The championship match is scheduled for March 17-19 at AT&T Park in San Francisco.

Paul Archey, MLB’s senior vice president of international business operations, said on the official Web site of the WBC that the use of the round-robin and double-elimination formats in the second round is aimed to make the competition more unpredictable and fun to watch.

“Pool play gives us a better opportunity for fans, with broader television coverage,” he said.

By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]
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