By Yoo Jee-ho
TOKYO, March 13 (Yonhap) -- South Korea manager Lee Kang-chul has an unenviable task of having to guide his team through a mostly meaningless game at the World Baseball Classic (WBC) Monday evening, with the team having already been eliminated in the opening round.
Before taking on China in the final Pool B game at Tokyo Dome starting at 7 p.m., Lee said he'd try his best to close out the tournament on a positive note.
"It's going to be our last game and we'll try our best to win the game," Lee said. "We made some lineup changes because some players are a little banged up and we have guys who haven't played much here."
South Korea's fate was sealed after Australia defeated the Czech Republic 8-3 earlier Monday and clinched the last ticket to the quarterfinals out of the group with a 3-1 record.
South Korea lost the first two games of the competition -- 8-7 to Australia and 13-4 to Japan -- before beating the Czech Republic 8-3 Sunday. South Korea can't finish higher than third even if it beats China on Monday.
To reach the quarters in a tiebreaking scenario, South Korea needed the Czech Republic to defeat Australia while allowing at least four runs.
The Czech allowed eight runs, but despite having a tying run on deck in the bottom ninth, their late rally fell short.
South Korea has now crashed out of the first round at three straight WBCs, after finishing third in 2006 and second in 2009.
Asked how he felt about the early elimination, Lee said, "It's not a great feeling. But we have a game to play here, so I will talk more about how I feel after the game."