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Japan to stick with lucky "Spiderman" pants

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan will stick with their lucky red Spiderman-style pants in their bid to win a third successive World Baseball Classic (WBC) title, head coach Koji Yamamoto said on Monday.

"We'll be wearing the red pants," Yamamoto told reporters, looking forward to his side's opening game against surprise qualifiers Brazil on March 2 in Fukuoka.

"Brazil have good pitching. The first game will be extremely important."

Brazil join the defending champions, powerhouse Cuba and China in Pool A after stunning Panama in qualifying.

Despite opting for the snazzy 'superhero' look, Yamamoto warned his players to dress conservatively and keep the lid on the hair dye during the March 2-19 tournament.

"You can see by the way they're preparing for the WBC that this is a serious bunch," the 66-year-old added. "They represent Japan and their appearance should reflect that."

Yamamoto has already given a warning to Nippon Ham Fighters outfielder Sho Nakata, who began New Year workouts with his hair bleached.

"If he comes to camp like that I'll hit the roof," said the 'Samurai Japan' skipper, who has not selected any Major League Baseball (MLB) players for the 16-team competition.

Japan, whose chances of a hat-trick of victories has been weakened by the absence of players such as Ichiro Suzuki and Yu Darvish, almost pulled out of the event after a row over sponsorship revenue.

Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) warned that a player boycott would be frowned on at home after the 2011 tsunami and nuclear crisis and the threat was averted.

Japan have a history of discontent regarding the issue of sponsorship rights, threatening to organize an Asian boycott of the inaugural 2006 tournament.

(Reporting by Alastair Himmer; Editing by John O'Brien)

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