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World Baseball Classic review: Japan reign supreme

Japan claimed their third World Baseball Classic with a narrow 3-2 win over USA in the final. Here is a review of the fifth edition of the WBC.

What:MLB Opening Day
Where:Venues across USA and Canada
When:Thursday 30th March 2023
How to watch:BT Sport 
Odds:(To win the World Series) Houston Astros 6/1, LA Dodgers 7/1, New York Mets 7/1, New York Yankees 8/1, San Diego Padres 17/2, Atlanta Braves 17/2

Japan stun United States

Japan hoisted the World Baseball Classic championship trophy for the third time and their first since 2009 as they defeated USA in the final, thanks to a crucial battle between Shohei Ohtani and United States captain Mike Trout. Ohtani was named Most Valuable Player for the entire tournament for providing the best statistics. 

Speaking to, Ohtani said: “I happened to be able to get the MVP, but this really does prove that Japanese baseball can beat any team in the world.

“I’ve seen Japan winning, and I just wanted to be part of it. I really appreciate that I was able to have a great experience. As I say, the next generation, the kids are playing baseball, I was hoping that those people would like to play baseball. That would make me happy.”

Japan remained unbeaten for the whole tournament, winning all four of their group matches before the three knockout game victories meant that Japan lifted the trophy.

Trea Turner continued his hot finish to the tournament with a 406 feet home run off Japanese pitcher Shota Imanaga. It was his third home run in the last three games and a record-tying fifth in a single WBC.

Muntetaka Murakami responded with a home run against United States pitcher Merrill Kelly. Kazuma Okamoto gave Japan the edge with an insurance run because Kyle Schwarber closed the game with a home run of his own. Ohtani came in as a reliever to break down the game in favour of Japan.

Global interest grows further

With sold out ballparks and merchandise selling seemingly faster than it could be made, the Classic not only promoted the game of baseball internationally, but it also renewed many people’s love for the game. It was the closest thing to the Olympics that many players will ever experience. 

USA Captain Mike Trout spoke to about his experience of the World Baseball Classic despite the loss at the final hurdle to Japan: “I was talking to a lot of people about this. Fans come to the ballpark obviously cheering for their team, you know, like, obviously the Angels.

“But then you’ve got families and people coming to the ballpark (for the WBC) to cheer for their country. It’s different. I can’t really express what was different about that. You just feel it in your veins, you know? It’s a special, special feeling.”

Trout is 7/1 to win the American League MVP Award in 2023.

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Great Britian seal 2026 slot

Great Britain, in their first ever World Baseball Classic. pulled off a shock when they defeated Colombia 7-5 in their third game of the tournament. That win meant that GB automatically qualify for the WBC in 2026 as USA beat Colombia in their final match. USA lost to Mexico in the group stages which meant that the Mexicans claimed top spot in the group. 

Cuba were shocked by Netherlands 4-2 in Taiwan on the opening day and the Dutch then defeated Panama, but didn’t qualify from the group stages as all the teams finished on a 2-2 record. It was Cuba and Italy that moved into the quarter-finals via the tiebreaker rule of runs allowed per defensive out recorded.

Australia won three of their pool games to storm through to the knockout stages, shocking South Korea in their opening match. That loss was the key for South Korea not qualfying as Japan beat them easily, watched by a TV audience of an estimated 60 million people.

It was Venezuela and Puerto Rico that prevailed in Pool D, knocking out pre-tournament favourites the Dominican Republic. It all boiled down to the final game of the group stage to see who would qualify for the knockouts and Puerto Rico beat the Dominican to move into the next stage.

There were no major shocks in the knockout stages other than Mexico prevailing over Puerto Rico to reach their first ever semi-final. Japan as usual reached the final four as they have done for every tournament to date.

So it was Japan who claimed their third title and it all happens again in 2026.

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