Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Cuba looks to defend their baseball World Cup crown

Cuba's baseball team receives their gold medals at the 2007 Pan American games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

November 6, 2007

TAIPEI (AFP) — Baseball giants Cuba are set to flex their muscles at the World Cup which opens here on Tuesday, looking to clinch a 10th successive title.

Cuba has had a stranglehold on the tournament since its inception, winning 25 of the 28 tournamants it has competed in, including the last nine.

"Their odds of successfully defending the championship are pretty high," said tournament spokesman Jabbar Chia.

Most of the players in this year's squad also took part in last year's World Baseball Classic, when Cuba finished second to Japan, Chia said.

He said Cuba's chances had got an additional boost from Japan, which has left several of its stars behind in preparation for Olympic qualifying next month.

But the Cubans will be facing stiff competition from the United States, which has a number of players who have been in the US Major Leagues on the roster.

Cuba's first match-up in the 16-team competition is against Australia on Wednesday.

Hosts Taiwan face Italy in their first game Tuesday after the opening ceremony.

Pool A groups Japan, the United States and Panama, who are expected to easily advance to the next round, along with contenders Taiwan, Italy and Mexico, who will have to battle it out for a fourth spot.

In Pool B, Australia, the Netherlands and Venezuela are considered strong contenders alongside Cuba.

Each team will play seven games in the round robin matches before four teams from each of the two pools advance.

The final is slated for November 18.



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