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Japan, Qatar to play at 12-team Copa America

Copa America

Bengaluru, May 5: Qatar and Japan will complete a 12-nation line-up for the 2019 Copa America, it has been confirmed.

The 2022 World Cup holders will feature alongside the likes of hosts Brazil and Argentina, while Japan are also invited to take part for the first time since 1999, when they did not qualify from the group stage.

Qatar were previously invited to play in the 2011 edition, but could not take part because of prior commitments.

2022 World Cup hosts Qatar are desperate for competitive matches before hosting the quadrennial extravaganza in four years' time. Recently, Qatar national team coach, Spaniard Felix Sanchez, said playing in the Copa America would be "a great experience to face the top international teams in the world".

The Samurai Blues had competed in the 1999 edition where they brought up the rear with just one point.

The South American governing body (CONMEBOL), announced last month that three teams from the Asian Football Confederation, will be invited for the Copa America along with three other nations from either the rest of the Americas or the Caribbean.

Originally, the 2019 Copa was initially expected to comprise 16 countries, the same number as at the previous edition, with Portugal and Spain reportedly in talks over taking part.

But CONMEBOL announced it will instead be a 12-team tournament, although details of the venues are yet to be confirmed.

" will be an exciting competition, in which anyone can take the title," said CONMEBOL president Alejandro Dominguez.

"In addition to the participation of the national teams of our 10 member associations, we welcome again the selection of Japan, with whose association we are united by a close bond of friendship, and for the first time, we will have the participation of Qatar."

Chile have won the last two editions of the Copa America, beating Argentina on penalties in both the 2015 and 2016 finals.

The 2019 Copa America will probably be the last in this format.

As of 2020, CONMEBOL and CONCACAF will organise a joint tournament, which will be played every four years, at the same time as the European Championships.

The first edition of this new format could be held in the USA and feature 20 countries, the 10 that make up CONMEBOL and another 10 from CONCACAF.

(With OPTA/Agencies inputs).

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Story first published: Saturday, May 5, 2018, 4:00 [IST]
Other articles published on May 5, 2018
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