History on Cuba's side in tournament

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SAN DIEGO -- Cuba is one loss away from elimination in what would be the country's worst finish in international competition, but the island nation remains optimistic.

In a rematch of the 2006 World Baseball Classic final on Sunday, Japan defeated Cuba, 6-0, in the first game of the second round for both teams in this year's version.

Cuba will play Mexico on Monday at 11 p.m. ET. Japan, the tournament's defending champion, will play Korea at 11 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

"[We] are prepared, and they know what they need to do," Cuba manager Higinio Velez said. "That's why, right now, we are not talking all that much, but we do know about the objective, why we came here and what we are prepared for."

The manager knows of what he speaks.

The country won Olympic gold medals in baseball in 1992, 1996 and 2004. It won silver medals in 2000 and 2008. Since 1952, Cuba has played in 40 international finals and won 33 times. Dating back to 1939, the Cubans have finished third only twice and never below that.

Cuba has rallied from defeat in the past.

In the 2006 tournament, Cuba defeated Panama and The Netherlands by a combined score of 19-8, but it lost to Puerto Rico in the finale of Pool C play, 12-2.

In the second round of the tournament, Cuba defeated Venezuela, 7-2, but it was defeated by the Dominican Republic, 7-3. Cuba rebounded to defeat Puerto Rico, 4-3, in the second-round finale and the Dominican Republic, 3-1, in the semifinals.

In Sunday's contest, Cuban starter Aroldis Chapman was charged with three hits and three runs in 2 1/3 innings. The left-hander walked three batters and struck out one. Japan outhit Cuba, 12-8, and Japanese starter Daisuke Matsuzaka stifled the Cuban lineup, allowing five hits and striking out eight in six scoreless innings.

"First, you need to know the character of your team and their real possibilities, knowing that even if they have a loss, they are a good team and the team that they showed in the past Classic," Velez said. "They were knocked out, and in the following day, they were able to have a wonderful win."

Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.