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Samurai Japan to open defense of WBC title on March 2


Japan will begin its pursuit of a third consecutive World Baseball Classic championship on March 2, according to a schedule released by organizers on Saturday.

Samurai Japan’s first opponent has yet to be named, but will be one of four teams that advanced to the tournament through qualifying.

Japan, Cuba and China have already been assigned to Pool A at Yahoo Dome in Fukuoka. The hosts’ second game will be against China on March 3, and Koji Yamamoto’s squad will complete its first-round play against Cuba on March 6.

The four qualifying pool winners — Taiwan, Brazil, Spain and Canada — have yet to be assigned to first-round groups.

The top two teams from Pool A’s round-robin format will advance to second-round Pool 1 at Tokyo Dome. There they will meet the top two teams coming out of Pool B. That group, consisting of South Korea, the Netherlands, Australia and a qualifier, will play its first-round games in Taichung, Taiwan.

A modified double elimination format will be used for the two quarterfinal pools that will send two teams each to the finals at San Francisco’s AT&T Park.

The inaugural WBC in 2006 used a round-robin format for both the first and second rounds, while the 2009 event used a modified double-elimination format for both rounds.