Japan manager putting ‘all my effort’ into beating S. Korea

TOKYO,-- Japan manager Hideki Kuriyama said Friday he is not taking South Korea lightly, despite his team's favorite status ahead of their rivalry showdown at the World Baseball Classic (WBC).

"Every time we faced Korea, it was always a tough competition," Kuriyama said at a pregame press conference at Tokyo Dome. "It's most likely a battle of mental strength. All I can say is I am putting all my effort into tonight's game. It's going to be a 50-50 game."

Japan, world No. 1 and favorite to win Pool B, is in the driver's seat after beating China 8-1 Thursday. South Korea, on the other hand, is reeling from an 8-7 loss to Australia on Thursday, and every remaining game is a must-win contest.

Kuriyama said Japan hasn't accomplished anything yet and his team is in the same situation as South Korea.

"We are not thinking about the future," he said. "We only concentrate on today's game, 100 percent."

Kuriyama attended some Korea Baseball Organization games last year on a scouting trip and said, "I learned a lot."

"It's difficult to explain what their strengths are," Kuriyama said of his opponent. "They combine major league style and Korean baseball style of play. All I can say is I will put all our effort into trying to get early momentum."

Asked about Friday's starter, five-time major league All-Star Yu Darvish, Kuriyama said a player of Darvish's stature needs no extra motivation or pep talk.

"He's one of the best pitchers in the world. All I can say is I have trust in him," the skipper said. "He has experience pitching against Korea. I believe he is feeling a lot of pressure. All the Japanese fans expect him to pitch well in Tokyo. And I trust him."

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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