By Yoo Jee-ho
TOKYO, March 13 (Yonhap) -- South Korea captain Kim Hyun-soo thinks the team's first round elimination from the World Baseball Classic (WBC) wasn't due to any physical issues or lack of talent.
The 35-year-old outfielder said Monday he believes it was mostly due to nerves.
"To perform better in the future, we have to be able to shake off pressure," Kim said after South Korea closed out the disappointing tournament with a 22-2 victory over China. South Korea still finished third in Pool B at 2-2, as Japan (4-0) and Australia (3-1) moved on to the quarterfinals.
Losing to Australia and Japan to begin the tournament crushed South Korea's hopes early.
"The most important thing is to create an environment where players are able to enjoy themselves more, rather than feeling the constant pressure to win," Kim continued. "We all prepared hard for this tournament and gave it our best in every game. But we were all a nervous bunch, and we weren't able to play to the best of our abilities."
Kim said it was partly his responsibility that he wasn't able to help his teammates enjoy the experience more, despite being the player with the longest international resume.
This WBC will be his last international competition. He declared in the aftermath of Monday's game that he will no longer put on the national team uniform.
"The guys did their part, and I didn't do my job as their captain," Kim said. "I want to thank my teammates for doing their best until the final out. And this is not the end of the world for Korean baseball. I told the guys that I'd like to see them do better next time."
The next WBC in 2026 will most likely feature San Diego Padres shortstop Kim Ha-seong, 27. He hit a grand slam against China and led all Pool B players with three dingers, but Kim had little to celebrate afterward.
"Losing to Australia and Japan was the most disappointing part of this experience," said Kim, who will now rejoin the Padres for spring training. "I got the impression that Australia was well prepared, and Japan had so many great pitchers."
Though manager Lee Kang-chul offered to put the country's early elimination on his shoulders, Kim said fingers should be pointed at players.
"The players who were on the field are the reasons for these losses," Kim said. "I think we should hold ourselves accountable."