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It's official! Qatar will compete in 2019 Copa America

By Sajith B Warrier
Qatar will become just the second Asian nation after Japan to compete in Copa America

Bengaluru/Doha, April 13: It's official! 2022 FIFA World Cup hosts Qatar will compete in the 2019 Copa America after accepting a formal invitation to take part in the tournament.

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The 2022 FIFA World Cup hosts are one of six non-South American sides expected to take part in the tournament to be held between June and July, 2019.

Earlier there were contradicting reports about Qatar's participation in the tournament.
Initial reports said the tiny Middle East nation will make it, thus becoming, just the second Asian nation to get the honours after Japan.

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

However, the Doha-based Aspire Academy, which is the nerve centre of football in Qatar denied the reports, saying they were just exploring the possibilities of participating in it and put the onus on Qatar Football Association (QFA).

Putting rest to all speculations, the QFA itself released a statement confirming Qatar's participation.

"Qatar will play in the 2019 Copa America, it's a great opportunity for us to participate in such a tournament," a QFA spokesman told AFP news agency.

The invitation was accepted by QFA President Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who is in Argentina attending the South American governing body (CONMEBOL) Congress, the QFA spokesman added.

Qatar are desperate for competitive matches before hosting the World Cup 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 CONMEBOL announced last month that three teams from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), in which Qatar play, will be invited along with three other nations from either the rest of the Americas or the Caribbean.

China and Japan could be the other AFC representatives and grapevine is that Mexico and two other countries could also join South American giants including Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, to push tournament numbers up to 16.

Eight different non-South American countries have been invited to play in previous editions of Copa America.

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

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 AFP inputs)

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    Story first published: Friday, April 13, 2018, 10:30 [IST]
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