Team Korea needs a big comeback in WBC matchKorea, the runner-up in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, is facing an uphill battle to advance to the second round of the latest edition of the international competition, and some experts are already trying to answer what might have gone wrong.
The potential for Korea’s early exit from the competition loomed large after a 5-0 shutout against the Netherlands on Saturday.
Baseball commentator Ha Il-sung said that absence of a potential military service exemption for players might have sapped their motivation.
Nearly a dozen of the 2006 WBC members from Korea were exempted from military service as the law allowed exemptions for athletes who advanced to the semifinals or better at the WBC, or won any medal at the Olympics or gold at the Asian Games.
The 2009 team did not enjoy the benefit despite a better performance than its predecessor as the government removed the WBC clause from the law in 2008.
Ha said that public opinion ahead of the 2009 event was generally supportive of the perk’s reinstatement.
“There was a possibility that [they would get military exemptions] before advancing to the semifinals,” Ha said, adding that this may have been an additional motivator for players.
Kim Jae-bak, former LG Twins manager who led Korea to a bronze medal during the 2006 Doha Asian Games, said that the 2013 team has yet to find its form.
Team Korea, led by Samsung Lions manager Ryu Joong-il, entered the 2013 event with only two victories in the six exhibition games in Taiwan.
Even if Korea beats Australia in the game that began last night, it will have to win its final first round game against host team Taiwan tonight by six points.
If Korea, Taiwan and the Netherlands are all tied with two victories and one loss, the team with the lowest offense-defense differential is knocked out. Kim said that Korea will not advance unless Korean players control their nerves.
“The national team is under enormous pressure. If it is in a hurry amid pressure to score big, it could backfire,” Kim said. “One error leads to losing a point. An international competition has many variables, so they shouldn’t be in a hurry and must keep their composure.”
Taiwan manager Hsieh Chang-heng said after beating the Netherlands 8-3 on Sunday that his team is aiming for a sweeping victory against Korea.
By Moon Gwang-lip, Seo Ji-young [firstname.lastname@example.org]
By Moon Gwang-lip, Seo Ji-young