Bengaluru/Doha, April 6: 2022 FIFA World Cup hosts Qatar are seriously weighing up the pros and cons of competing in the Copa America tournament and if everything goes according to the plan, then the tiny Middle East nation may make its debut in the 2019 edition.
The South American tournament takes place every four years and CONMEBOL - the continent's football governing body - often invite teams from abroad to compete.
With the 2019 Copa America set to include 16 teams for the second edition in succession, Qatar could be one of CONMEBOL's six invitees for the tournament in Brazil. Other Asian teams which could be invited are Japan and China.
If it gets a chance to compete in the prestigious tournament, then the Asian nation is set to test themselves against the five-time winners of that competition Brazil, as well as two-time champions Argentina, in South America.
"It'll be the first time that Qatar has faced teams such as Brazil and Argentina," said Aspire Academy Director General Ivan Bravo on the sidelines of the Bilbao International Football Summit in Spain, which brings together big names in the world of football.
The Doha-based Aspire Academy is the nerve-centre of excellence when it comes to football in Qatar.
"It'll be a unique opportunity for the national team to gain experience, so that it can compete on the right level at the 2022 World Cup," added Bravo, who has previously served as Director of Strategy at Real Madrid.
Earlier there were unconfirmed reports that Qatar's participation is assured in the tournament. However, Bravo denied it.
"By no means have I confirmed as published that Qatar will participate in the Copa America, but simply that in line with recent news that related to the possibility that several teams from Asia would be invited, such opportunity could happen and would be unique to continue preparing a national team for the future. From Aspire we don't have any information nor direct participation in such topics which're the responsibility of the Qatar Football Association," Bravo said in an Aspire Academy press release.
⚠️📢 Clarification Statement from #AspireAcademy about the Copa America participation:— Aspire Academy 🇶🇦 (@Aspire_Academy) April 5, 2018
"By no means have I confirmed as published the participation of Qatar in #CopaAmerica 2019" 🗣 Director General Ivan Bravo
Read the full statement here 👉🏼 https://t.co/VD2E4eBGJF pic.twitter.com/HhkT17zo2M
It was reported that CONMEBOL were in discussion with Portugal and Spain about taking part in the 2019 Copa, but it is now expected the invitees will be split between CONCACF and the Asian Football Confederation.
The 2019 tournament 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.
Japan are the only Asian side to have competed in Copa America so far, taking part in 1999 - but finished bottom of their group with just one point.
Chile won the last official edition in 2015, and retained their title in the Copa America Centenario a year later.
(With Agency/Aspire inputs)