Pictures by Osamu Takezaki and Kaede Moriyama (Japan Softball Association)
There were no surprises on the final day of the preliminary matches in 12th Men Softball Asia Cup 2023 at the Kochi Softball Fields at Kochi Athletic Recreation Park, Haruno, as Japan and Singapore cruised to the final tomorrow, while Philippines will face Hong Kong in the third placing match for bronze medal.
Japan the defending champions, once again just did what they needed to defeat Chinese Taipei 12-0 to end their preliminary round campaign unbeaten, while Singapore defeated India 8-1.
If there was a surprise, it must be Hong Kong in the play-off for bronze medal tomorrow, but then again, that slot belonged to them from their day to day results. Today, although they lost to Philippines 0-8, they have booked the play-off for bronze medal with their two wins from five games.
Probably disappointed must be Philippines, who were in last year’s final, but this year have given up the slot to Singapore and will have to settle for the bronze medal when they play Hong Kong in the play off.
Philippines, who should have no problems with Hong Kong, whom they defeated today, must be thanking their lucky stars that this year three tickets have been offered for the World Cup to Asia, as compared to two last year. This year three have been offered because the World Cup format has changed.
While previously the two qualifiers for each continent qualifier, qualified automatically to the one Stage World Cup, now there is the Group stage where the 3 qualifiers in the three Group Stages have to finish among the top two in each Group, to qualify for the World Cup proper and the two best teams from the third placed teams in each Group based on their World Cup ranking and other factors, will make the cut as ‘Wild card’ entries.
But Singapore certainly must be the most satisfied team this year, having already booked their World Cup first stage ticket, as compared to last year when they finished third and missed the cut to the World Cup.
Whether Singapore can cap their outing with an icing to the cake with an upset victory over host Japan, seems a far fetched notion.
Of course, Singapore think otherwise, especially after having narrowly lost 0-2 to Japan in the preliminary game on Sunday.
“We have a second shot at Japan and we intend to make the best out of it especially with the Asia Cup at stake. We have already qualified for the World Cup, and with the Asia Cup for grabs, we intend to go for broke,” said Singapore coach Koh Ruoh Jie.
“We have nothing to lose but everything to gain.”
Can Singapore turn the table on the Japanese team?
Japan are represented by their U-23 Men that finished runners-up in the World Cup in Panana, Argentina in April, losing to Australia by a single run achieved in the seventh inning, despite a clean run in the tournament including defeating the Aussies 8-1.
But the youth team have proved there are a cut above the senior teams competing here.
It will be a tough act for Singapore to defeat Japan, although Singapore is a much improved team.
Besides, Japan who seemed doing just enough to breeze past their opponents in the preliminary round matches, could well be saving their best for the last.
However, Japan’s head coach Shinji Eguchi, as usual remain modest and just said they give their best in each match and never under rate any team.
“I expect a good final but hope that we do well enough to win the title. This Under 23 team have been given the task to carry the challenge as defending champions, and we intend to repay the confidence of the association,” said Eguchi.
Indeed, an upset by Singapore is highly unlikely, but judging by Singapore’s improved performance this year, they could well give Japan a run for their money.
In the bronze medal match, Hong Kong should be just contended of playing in the bronze medal match and take the experience home.
It will be a major upset if Philippines go down to Hong Kong.
Hong Kong 0 Philippines 8
India 1 Singapore 8
Japan 12 Chinese Taipei 0
FINAL DAY (WEDNESDAY) FIXTURES
Bronze medal: PR#3 (Philippines) v PR#4 (Hong Kong)
Gold medal: PR#1 (Japan) v PR#2 (Singapore
2023 FINAL RANKING:
- Chinese Taipei
Final Ranking 2022
1st – Japan
2nd – Philippines
3rd – Singapore
4th – India
5th – Hong Kong
6th – Thailand
7th – Chinese Taipei
(The 1st, 2nd and 3rd placed teams on the completion of the Final competition will qualify as the three (3) Asia teams eligible to participate in the WBSC Wold Cup (Group Stage) Men Softball 2024 (host cities and dates to be determined)
Singapore 6 Chinese Taipei 2
Hong Kong 10 India 3
Hong Kong 0 Japan 10
Philippines 5 Singapore 9
Japan 6 Philippines 0
India 0 Chinese Taipei 7
Hong Kong 0 Singapore 9
India 1 Philippines 5
India 0 Japan 12
Philippines 7 Chinese Taipei 1
Japan 2 Singapore 0
Hong Kong 7 Chinese Taipei 0