Japan likely to take part in Copa America

Updated: Apr 13, 2011, 11:00 AM IST

Tokyo: Japan`s football team is likely to take part in the Copa America, reversing an earlier decision to withdraw from the event because of a massive earthquake and tsunami, executives said.

The March 11 twin disasters severely damaged a nuclear power plant in Japan`s northeast, causing widespread electricity cuts which forced the country`s J-League to suspend five rounds.

The league has rescheduled its backlogged fixtures to be played during a break in July, which clashes with the South American championship, where Asian champions Japan are invited as non-member guests along with Mexico.

"We will take part on condition that we call up a certain number of overseas-based players in a way to minimise the impact on the J-League," Japan Football Association technical director Hiromi Hara told Japanese media yesterday.

He added that the South American Football Confederation pledged to help negotiate with European clubs for the release of their Japanese players for the July 1-24 Copa America in Argentina.

The Japan FA is scheduled to make a final decision at an executive meeting on Thursday.

Meanwhile the J-League agreed at its own executive meeting to cooperate with Japan`s participation in the Copa America on condition that Europe-based players make up the bulk of Alberto Zaccheroni`s Blue Samurai squad.

"We also attach importance to the national team and want to respect the Japanese association`s idea," J-League director and Gamba Osaka president Kikuo Kanamori told the Jiji Press news agency.

JFA president Junji Ogura met the heads of the South American Football Confederation and the Argentina Football Association at their headquarters last week.

Ogura said he had gained assurances that world football`s governing body FIFA was considering an exceptional measure to require European clubs to free up Japanese players for the Copa despite their guest status.

Kanamori said, "We could feel JFA president Ogura`s enthusiasm to pump up Japanese football."