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Why Qatar And Japan Are Competing At The 2019 Copa America In Brazil

Asian Cup winners Qatar have been invited to participate in the 2019 Copa America.
Asian Cup winners Qatar have been invited to participate in the 2019 Copa America.

The Copa America returns this summer, with the ten teams of the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) participating as well as two additional nations from outside of the Americas for the first time.

In its last iteration the tournament celebrated its centenary, with Chile retaining the title having won it for the first time in their history in 2015. Out of the ten nations, only Ecuador and Venezuela have failed to win the tournament. Uruguay lead the record haul with 15 championships, closely followed by Argentina who haven’t won the contest since 1993.

This year’s event returns to Brazil where it has been held on four previous occasions, the first exactly a century ago. From outside of the South American nations, Japan and Qatar have also been granted inclusion.

It isn’t Japan’s first foray into the competition, having been invited and competed in 1999, and in doing so became the first non-American team to participate. That year a winless group stage run comprised of two defeats to Peru and Paraguay and a draw with Bolivia saw the Samurai Blue take an early flight home.

Both Qatar and Japan were the 2019 Asian Cup finalists, though Qatar’s invitation to the Copa America was more fundamentally due to their hosting of the 2022 World Cup, the first time a Middle-Eastern nation will have done so. They are also the venue for the 2019 and 2020 Club World Cup championships, to further elevate their visibility on the international football stage.

Since 1993, CONMEBOL has invited two supplementary teams to provide a viable tournament structure to the Copa America. This is the first time Mexico - finalists in 2001 - won’t have competed in those 26 years, whilst Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama, Jamaica, Haiti, and the USA have also attended in the past. All were Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) nations. With the Gold Cup, African Cup of Nations, Nations League Finals, and Euro 2020 qualifiers, viable invitees had been severely narrowed.

2016’s ‘Copa América Centenario’ marked 100 years since the competition’s inception, and took place in the United States. That particular iteration was expanded to 16 teams.

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