It’s strange to say it, but the Team Italy Vs Team Canada game on Friday, the second game on the Italian National Baseball Team’s 2013 World Baseball Classic schedule, is something of a rivalry game. It doesn’t stem from any bad blood between these two countries, nor is it related to a long-standing rivalry in another sport. This is a battle between two middling national programs, but there’s some history here that makes this game extremely interesting.
Team Italy produced it’s first homegrown MLB player recently, while Canada has had at least one professional team for some time. Italy is up and coming, as the sport gains popularity within a soccer-crazed country while Canada has been consistently perched in the middle of the pack for some time while dominating the hockey rankings. Italy is the most decorated team to come out of Europe, but expectations are consistently low in international play.
In the 2009 World Baseball Classic, Team Italy knocked out the Canadian National Baseball Team in Canada. The embarrassing loss on their home turf in international play was a bit surprising. This year, Team Italy and Team Canada are in the same pool of the first round of the tournament. They rank 9th and 10th in the international baseball rankings, so Friday’s rematch should be evenly matched.
While Team USA is the odds-on favorite to win the pool, the runner-up spot that lands a spot in the second round is up for grabs between Mexico, Canada, and Italy. Friday’s game could prove to be the decisive matchup in Pool D. I give a slight edge to Italy, but watch for Canada to be extra motivated.
Italy 6 – Canada 5