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Japanese FA confirms Copa withdrawal

JFA president Junji Ogura met with the head of the South American confederation, Nicolas Leoz, in Asuncion on April 3.
JFA president Junji Ogura met with the head of the South American confederation, Nicolas Leoz, in Asuncion on April 3.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Costa Rica to replace Japan at the Copa America football tournament in July
  • Japanese officials confirm last month's decision to pull out, having decided to reconsider
  • JFA had hoped to take a squad made up of its overseas-based players
  • European clubs refuse to release them due to next season's earlier start time

(CNN) -- Japan's national soccer team will not play as a guest nation at the Copa America tournament in Argentina after failing to secure the release of the earthquake-hit country's Europe-based players.

The J-League has been so badly disrupted by the March 11 disaster that domestic clubs will not allow players to travel to South America.

However, the Japanese Football Association was persuaded to revise its April 3 decision to pull out of the July 1-24 tournament, and had hoped to participate with a squad made up of its overseas stars.

"It is a great pity that we won't be able to take part in the tournament as the local people were preparing to welcome us," JFA president Junji Ogura told his association's website on Wednesday.

They told me they would understand if this was the Asian Cup or a one-off charity match, but they had a problem with it being the Copa America
--JFA technical director Hiromi Hara
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"We realized that we would not be able to form a squad good enough to play in the Copa America, and on that basis we had no choice but to give up the opportunity to play in the tournament."

JFA technical director Hiromi Hara met with officials at 11 clubs, but was told that they could not release the players because next season will start earlier than usual due to the mid-2012 staging of the European Championship in Poland and Ukraine.

"Many of our players have become top players at these clubs, and that is something to be pleased about," Hara said.

"Club officials told me they would understand if this was the Asian Cup or a one-off charity match, but they had a problem with it being the Copa America."

The JFA has made alternative plans to prepare for the 2014 World Cup qualifiers in September.

The Samurai Blue will play Peru and the Czech Republic in the Kirin Cup in early June, and then take on South Korea in August in a friendly.

Japan won the 2011 Asian Cup in Qatar in January, beating Australia in the final under the guidance of coach Alberto Zaccheroni.

"This year has turned to be an exceptional year following the East Japan disaster, and we have been put into a situation where we have had to make a difficult decision," the Italian said.

"However, we would like to move on to set our full focus on our preparations for our important World Cup qualifiers."

The Copa America tournament traditionally features two guest nations and 10 from South America.

Costa Rica will replace Japan, while Mexico will be the other team from outside the CONMEBOL federation.