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Japan, Cuba play WBC championship game rematch in San Diego

San Diego, CA (Sports Network) - Cuba tries to keep its perfect record at this year's World Baseball Classic intact when it opens the second round against Japan at Petco Park in a rematch from the championship game at the inaugural event in 2006.

Japan got the best of Cuba three years ago, defeating it 10-6, to take home the first WBC title.

Cuba, though, has been the best team so far in this year's tournament, as it won all three of its games in Pool B. Cuba set the tone of the tournament early on, belting a WBC-record six home runs in an 8-1 win over South Africa.

The Cubans hit 11 homers in their three games at high altitude Mexico City.

Hoping to slow down the potent Cuban attack today will be right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka, who beat them in the 2006 championship game. Matsuzaka, the 2006 Classic MVP, defeated Korea in Game 2 of Pool A, surrendering two runs and four hits in four innings to raise his overall WBC mark to 4-0.

After winning the first two games of Pool A, including a lopsided 14-2 win over reigning Olympic Gold Medal-winning Korea, Japan fell to Korea in the final game in Pool A to fall into the second seed from the pool.

Japan and Cuba are no strangers to one another on the international stage.

Cuba defeated Japan in the Gold Medal game in the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics and beat them in a semifinal contest four years later in Australia. However, during the last two Olympics the two teams didn't face in the medal round. At Athens in 2004, Japan beat Cuba during pool play and Matsuzaka pitched into the ninth inning to earn the win.

Last summer at the Beijing Olympics, Cuba defeated Japan, 4-2, in the Olympic opener for both teams.

Of course, Cuba is probably the most decorated team in the tournament, having competed in five Olympics, winning three gold medals and two silvers, while winning the International Baseball Federation World Cup 25 times since its inception in 1938.

Tonight's loser will face the loser of the contest between Mexico and Korea in a Pool 1 elimination contest on Monday. The two winners, though, will meet on Tuesday for the right to advance to the semifinals in Los Angeles.

03/15 10:26:19 ET

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