Japan pull out of Copa America

Japan have withdrawn from this summer’s Copa America after they were unable to secure the release of both domestic and foreign-based players for the competition, the Japan Football Association have announced.

JFA President Junji Ogura confirmed their non-participation in July’s tournament in Argentina in a letter to CONMEBOL while offering the South American governing body their apologies for pulling out.

“It is a great pity that we cannot take part in the tournament,” said Ogura.

“But we cannot form a squad good enough to play in the Copa America and we couldn’t help but give up playing in the tournament.”

The Asian champions were invited to compete in the South American championship as a guest, the same scenario as in 1999 in Paraguay, where they finished bottom of Group A.

But following the devastating East Japan earthquake on March 11, the J.League was suspended for six weeks and those postponed matches were rescheduled for July, originally left clear so Japan could take part in the Copa America.

The J.League clubs therefore refused to release their players for international duty and the JFA then tried to form the squad around European-based players such as Dortmund’s Shinji Kagawa, Schalke’s Atsuto Uchida and Yuto Nagatomo of Inter Milan but were unable to secure their participation.

Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni said: “I respect the JFA’s decision and am deeply grateful to the authorities of the JFA, CONMEBOL and FIFA, who worked enthusiastically towards our participation in the tournament.

“This year has turned to be an exceptional year following the East Japan disaster and that has put us in a situation where we have to make a difficult decision like this one.”

The third round of Asian qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup will get under way in September and Japan will now have three friendly matches – Kirin Cup games against Peru on June 1 in Niigata and Czech Republic on June 7 in Yokohama – and against South Korea on August 10 in Sapporo to prepare.

Zaccheroni added: “We would like to move on to set our full focus on our preparation for our important games in the World Cup qualifiers.”

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