Japan have pulled out of this summer’s Copa America tournament, as the country continues to deal with the fallout from the devastating March 11 earthquake and subsequent tsunami, ESPN reports.
The Asian side had been invited to play as a guest national team in the South America, along with CONCACAF’s Mexico, for the competition which begins on July 1 in Argentina. However, they have been forced to withdraw to deal with the the huge problems caused by the natural disaster. “The priority at this moment is to continue saving lives and rebuilding the country,” Japanese Football Association president Junji Ogura said on the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) website. “We are sorry to be pulling out.”
A CONMEBOL spokesman suggested Costa Rica or Canada as possible replacements but said nothing had been decided. CONMEBOL President Nicolas Leoz said in a statement that he “deeply lamented” Japan’s decision, while a spokesman said that the organisation ‘’will make a final decision relying on the consensus of its members” over who should replace them. Costa Rica and Canada have been rumoured to be interested, while World Cup winners Spain are also believed to be on the shortlist.