Japan pulls out of Copa America for second time

Japan pulls out of Copa America for second time

Published May. 18, 2011 3:48 a.m. ET

Japan confirmed its withdrawal from the Copa America on Tuesday for the second time because it couldn't form a strong team.

European clubs wouldn't release Japan's top internationals for the South American championship in July, Japan Football Association President Junji Ogura said at a news conference in Tokyo.

Because Japan was a guest side at the Copa America in Argentina, it didn't have any rights under FIFA rules to compel clubs to release players for national duty.

''After all that Argentina has gone through in preparation of the Copa America, we are totally devastated that we cannot participate,'' Ogura said.


''Unfortunately, under the current circumstances, it is regrettable that we have to withdraw because we are unable to form a competent team.''

Costa Rica will replace Japan at the tournament after accepting an invitation from CONMEBOL. The Central American nation will take a team of players mostly aged under- 23, with five older players.

''We are not just going to take part, we want to play a good role,'' said Costa Rica federation president Eduardo Li. ''We firmly believe going to the Copa America is important.''

In a letter sent to the Costa Rican football authorities, CONMEBOL said the Central American nation's participation would be ''very valued'' and ''add shine'' to the competition.

Costa Rica has appeared three times before, in 1997, 2001 and 2004.

CONMEBOL routinely invites at least two teams from outside the region to compete alongside the 10 South American teams.

Japan pencilled in about 15 players based in Europe, but even after FIFA offered limited help, most of the players said they wouldn't be given permission to appear in the Copa America.

Japan, which previously played in the Copa in 1999, was drawn in the same group this time as Argentina, Bolivia and Colombia.

But in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in March, it pulled out of the Copa, only to change its mind two weeks later.

''We have players that dreamt of being part of Copa America, and still really want to go,'' Ogura said. ''I also wanted to go.

''But the disaster was way too big and so we cannot demand too much (from the players).''