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By ESPN Staff

Japan withdraw from Copa America

Japan have pulled out of this summer's Copa America tournament, as the country continues to deal with the fallout from the devastating March 11 earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

The Asian side had been invited to play as a guest national team in the South America, along with CONCACAF's Mexico, for the competition which begins on July 1 in Argentina. However, they have been forced to withdraw to deal with the the huge problems caused by the natural disaster.

"The priority at this moment is to continue saving lives and rebuilding the country," Japanese Football Association president Junji Ogura said on the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) website. "We are sorry to be pulling out."

CONMEBOL President Nicolas Leoz said in a statement that he "deeply lamented" Japan's decision, while a spokesman said that the organisation ''will make a final decision relying on the consensus of its members" over who should replace them.

Costa Rica and Canada have been rumoured to be interested, while World Cup winners Spain have revealed they have received an invitation.

President of the Spanish football federation (RFEF) Angel Maria Villar told the press: "Spain has received a proposal to participate in the Copa America. We have been asked many times and it's something that Spanish football owes to South America for the great players who have come to play here.

"I am in favour of Spain participating in the tournament. It is something that must be evaluated with care. I consider it a great honour and I will take the proposal to the board.''

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