Costa Rica To Replace Japan In Copa America

Japan's back and forth on whether or not they will play in this summer's Copa America appears to have finally come to an end with the Asian champions deciding against playing in the tournament. Costa Rica is expected to replace Japan in the tournament with an official announcement coming on Friday.

The Japanese were originally supposed to join Mexico as the two invited non-CONMEBOL teams in South America's championship tournament, but their status has been up in the air since the devastating March earthquake and subsequent tsunami struck the country.

CONMEBOL, has just 10 teams so they invite two teams to their championship tournament to give them a 12 team field. Mexico has been invited to every tournament since CONMEBOL began inviting teams in 1993, while Japan has taken part in the tournament once before. Costa Rica will make their fourth appearance this summer in Japan's place, having twice before qualified for the quarterfinals.

After the earthquake there were questions about whether or not Japan would be able to take part in the tournament. Spain was offered to take Japan's place if the Samurai Blues chose to withdraw, but Spain declined. Not long after, Japan surprised some by announcing that they would in fact stay in the tournament and play.

The issue that Japan has run into is player availability with the rescheduling of the J-League. The earthquake forced the league to take a month off and the rescheduling has pushed league play into July. Because Copa America is not the championship for Japan's own confederation, FIFA rules state that clubs are not obligated to release players to Japan for Copa America. With the J-League now playing in July, it is unlikely that they would release players to play in Copa America, making it difficult for Japan to field a team.

Copa America will begin on July 1 with the hosts Argentina playing Bolivia in La Plata. Costa Rica will take Japan's place in Group A and open against Colombia on July 2 in Jujuy.

Related Articles:
J-League Cancels All Games For March
Spain In Copa America? What The Heck!

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