The scene may have changed, but the goal remains the same for Cuba: make it to San Francisco.
Cuba won all three of its games in Fukuoka, Japan, during Pool A of the 2013 World Baseball Classic, and it is looking for more of the same when it opens the second round against the Kingdom of the Netherlands on Friday at Tokyo Dome at 12 p.m. locally/10 p.m. ET Thursday in a game that can be watched live on MLB Network and ESPN Deportes.
"It's a fact we've had a tough time playing against the Netherlands," Cuban manager Victor Mesa said after his team clinched Pool A with a 6-3 win over Japan on Wednesday. "We've learned from that."
Both teams worked out at Tokyo Dome on Thursday ahead of the matchup.
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After a slow start, the Cuban offense has begun to round into form. Cuba was no-hit by Brazil for five innings in its opener, but went on to defeat the Brazilians, China and Japan by a combined score of 23-5 in the first round.
Jose Abreu, Alexei Bell, Alfredo Despaigne and Yasmani Tomas all homered for the Cubans in the opening round. Frederich Cepeda didn't go deep, but he finished with two doubles and a triple, and Jose Fernandez was 5-for-8 with a pair of RBIs.
The Dutch were buoyed by current and former Major League talent during Pool B competition. Braves infielder Andrelton Simmons had four hits, including three doubles, and an RBI in three games, while Nationals outfielder Roger Bernadina drove in three runs. Andruw Jones, a five-time All-Star with the Braves and now with Nippon Professional Baseball's Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, had three hits and walked four times.
NPB All-Star and 2012 home run champion Wladimir Balentien and Orioles prospect Jonathan Schoop are also dangerous hitters.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands pulled off the upset of the tournament thus far in knocking off Pool B favorite Korea 5-0 in its first game, and the club is ready to continue to shock the baseball world.
The Dutch were the Cinderella story of the 2009 Classic after making a surprising run to the second round, and they are out to show that was no fluke.
Cuba is simply aiming for the title.
Prior to meeting Japan, Mesa said that despite two wins, he felt something was missing. He was still searching after his team's 6-3 win over the Japanese.
"Our goal is to become champions of the world," Mesa said Wednesday. "Until we get that championship, I feel we are lacking something."
Jason Coskrey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.