Japan has pulled out of the 2011 Copa America, leaving the 12-team competition one country short with three months left until kick-off.
The Japanese Football Association made the decision to withdraw as the country recovers from the devastating earthquake and tsunami of March 17.
The Japanese FA originally intended to postpone domestic J-League fixtures during the Copa America.
But the natural disaster has caused a halt to the J-League, meaning matches must now be rescheduled during the South American tournament.
“The priority at this moment is to continue saving lives and rebuilding the country after the earthquake and tsunami,” Japanese FA president Junji Ogura said.
“We are sorry to be pulling out because we recognise that we have advanced in football by being close to South American (teams).”
Japan and Mexico were invited to join the 10 South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) teams in the line-up for the 2011 edition of the competition.
Japan’s decision not to attend leaves CONMEBOL searching for a replacement, with the competition scheduled to start in Argentina on July 1.
World and European Champions Spain have already been touted by the Argentine media as a potential replacement.
The United States, which has participated on three occasions in the past and finished fourth in 1995, could also be in contention.
“CONMEBOL will make a final decision relying on the consensus of its members,” a spokesman for the federation said.
The CONMEBOL spokesman also suggested Costa Rica or Canada as potential replacements, adding that Japan would be invited to attend again in 2015.
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