The schedule for next yearâ€™s European Baseball Championship has just been announced, revealing the task that Great Britain will face in their attempt to follow up an impressive silver-medal showing in 2007.Â The tournament will be held in Heidenheim, Neuenburg and Stuttgart, Germany between 23 July and 3 August.
There are twelve entrants in total, split into two groups of six for the first round.Â Team GB have been grouped with Croatia, Greece, Italy, Spain and Sweden and need a top three finish to progress into the second round.Â Italy and Spain would be considered as the two favourites to top the group, with GB and Sweden arguably in a straight battle for the other spot.Â Of course, you never know quite how a tournament will play out so writing off Croatia, who Great Britain beat to earn their sole victory in the World Cup in September, and Greece would be dangerous.Â However, Stephan Rapagliaâ€™s men should go into the tournament with confidence.Â Their 2007 performance showed that they are capable of competing with the best in Europe and while a World Cup win-loss record of 1-9 doesnâ€™t look good on paper, the experience gained in playing the likes of Cuba, Korea, Japan and others will be invaluable for those players who go on to take part in the Euros next year.Â
The other first round group contains Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Netherlands and Ukraine.Â The Dutch should win the group comfortably, but there will be a good battle for the other two qualifying places.Â Germany in particular should be fierce competitors, playing in front of home crowds and with the disappointment of their heart-breaking exit from the World Cup still being keenly felt.
Rumours that Thierry Henry will be Franceâ€™s catcher are unconfirmed.Â Â
The World Cup first round pool staged in Regensburg was a great success and, although that venue will not be used on this occasion, the Germans can be expected to host an excellent tournament.Â Eurosport covered the event in 2007 and itâ€™s very possible that they will be showing a selection of games live for the 2010 tournament as well.