The WBSC Softball Americas Qualifier was presented today in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, and most of the teams agreed on one thing: the expectations are high for the Olympic qualification tournament starting tomorrow, with two Olympic spots at stake.
Canada’s Head Coach Mark Smith focused on the performance of his team: “We expect to play well, we’ve had a very good summer, the team has played very consistently, and I have a great expectation that we’re continuing to play well. At this level, any team is capable of winning against everyone. So you can’t afford to look forward to this country or that country because every team here is going to come and play the best they possibly can. So we look at it from this perspective: every time we step on the field, we have to play well”.
Canada is the top-seeded team in the tournament, does it affect the approach of the team? “We really haven’t talked about where we’re seeded in the tournament. We haven’t talked about what others expect from us. We’ve only talked about what we expect from ourselves. And again we expect to play well, that’s the approach we’ve had all the summer. One game at the time, one pitch at the time”.
Puerto Rico’s Head Coach Edwin Mercado was clear about the goals of his team: “We have high expectations, we’ve been working hard since a long time and we hope to earn one of two spots for the Olympic Games. We need to play our game and reach our level, no matter who is our opponent. We think that everyone here has a chance to win, so we’ll give our best on the field”.
“We have a positive mindset, we won a medal at the Pan American Games a few weeks ago, and that’s a great motivation”, added Puerto Rico’s captain Karla Claudio. “We have a long time playing together and we have great chemistry, so that’s the most important thing”.
Mexico’s skipper Carlos Bernaldez also showed confidence about his team’s possibilities: “We had a great preparation for the tournament. The level of the top five teams in the world is very even, you can win or lose with everyone, but we’ve had some good games. The expectations are big: we came here for one of the two spots and we’ll fight for it till the end.
After a fourth-place performance at the Pan American Games, Mexico needs to improve to advance to Tokyo. “We don’t have any pressure, we must keep playing the way we did. We’re not afraid of any team. We have a united squad, they are at their highest level now and we’ll take advantage of it”, said Bernaldez.
Venezuela also is optimism about its chances in the tournament. Beijing 2008 Olympian Maria Soto said: “This is an Olympic dream, but it’s a dream with a lot of work, effort and sacrifice. We have young players, with the desire to be at this level, and we’ve done whatever we could as a team and as a country. The ten countries playing here want to clinch one of the two berths, Venezuela has been always at the highest level, so we’re optimistic. I think we have a great combination of young and veteran players, so hopefully, we can see the results on the field”.
Asked about Venezuela’s rivals in Group A, Head Coach Ramon Lopez added: “We respect all the teams of the group. Our main goal is to clinch one of the top two spots of the group, to get a real chance in the Super Round. When nobody believed in us, we earned a berth for the Olympic Games Beijing 2008, so till the end of the tournament we have the same opportunities to be in the top two of this event”.