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By ESPN Staff

Japan reconsider Copa America

Japan will play in this summer's Copa America if they can secure the release of their Europe-based players for the tournament in Argentina.

Japan, the 2011 Asian Cup winners, had initially been set to pull out of their role as guests at the South American championship because of scheduling changes to the domestic J. League competition following the devastating earthquake which affected the north-east of Japan on March 11.

With six matches now scheduled for July, the J. League clubs were reluctant to release their players to the national team for the month-long tournament.

However, an agreement has now been reached to send a squad formed mainly around players based in Europe, with the tournament being played at a time when most European leagues are on their summer break.

Japan Football Association vice president Kozo Tashima said: "By playing in the tournament, we can show the rest of the world how the country of Japan is fighting (against the disaster).

"If we don't take part in the tournament, it could give a negative influence instead. However, it is important to form a squad which deserves to play in the Copa America."

The JFA initially thought about withdrawing from the tournament but its president, Junji Ogura, was asked to reconsider their participation when he met Argentinian Football Association president Julio Grondona last week. According to the JFA, the South American officials offered to help Japan call up their players in Europe for the tournament.

"It is our coach (Alberto) Zaccheroni who will choose his squad for the tournament, and the JFA will help him have his players. We will ask CONMEBOL (the South American confederation) for help if necessary too," Tashima added.

Japan has been invited to play in the South American tournament, which runs from July 1 to 24, having previously taken part in 1999.

The 9.0-magnitude quake caused immense damage to wide areas in the north-east part of Japan, which included the home towns of J. League clubs such as Vegalta Sendai, Kashima Antlers and Mito Hollyhock. Electricity supplies have been affected while the nuclear and thermal power stations along the coastline was damaged by the quake.

Over 13,000 people died and more than 15,000 are missing following the disaster, while hundreds of thousands people are still struggling to recover and rebuild their lives.


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