Why are Japan and Qatar playing at Copa America 2019 in Brazil?

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JAPAN are flying the flag for Asia as they face Ecuador still in with a chance of qualification for the knockout stages.

Fellow Asians Qatar impressed at the tournament but ultimately bowed out to Argentina, leaving Samurai Blue to represent the continent.

 Japan players train ahead of their Copa America match against Ecuador

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Japan players train ahead of their Copa America match against Ecuador

Paraguay’s loss to Colombia means any win over Ecuador will see the Japanese progress as one of the best third place sides – but what are they doing at the tournament?

Why are Japan and Qatar playing in the Copa America?

As the South American football federation (Conmebol) only has ten members, additional invitees are required to create a workable tournament structure.

Initially, six extra teams – three from North America and three from Asia – were set to be invited in order to create a 16-team competition.

This was the format in 2016, when six guest teams from North America participated to make four groups of four.

But instead, in May 2018, Conmebol decided the tournament should follow the structure of all other competitions since 1993 and have 12 teams, with Qatar and Japan those invited.

Typically invited teams tend to come from North America, but with the Concacaf Gold Cup currently being played in the United States, they would only be able to send reserve squads to the Copa America.

Qatar and Japan fixtures and results

16/6/19 – Paraguay 2 Qatar 2

18/6/19 – Japan 0 Chile 4

19/6/19 – Colombia 1 Qatar 0

21/6/19 – Uruguay 2 Japan 2

23/6/19 – Qatar 0-2 Argentina

25/6/19 – Ecuador vs Japan (12am)

Did Qatar and Japan qualify through the Asian Cup?

No. Qatar beat Japan 3-1 in the 2019 Asian Cup final, but it is a complete coincidence that they also happen to have been invited to the Copa America.

Has either team played in the Copa America before?

Japan have played in one previous Copa America, appearing at the 1999 tournament in Paraguay.

In that competition they finished bottom of a group containing Peru, Paraguay and Bolivia as they picked up just one point – a 1-1 draw with the Bolivians.

Qatar have never played in the Copa America before and will be using the competition to get used to a higher standard of football ahead of the 2022 World Cup, which will be hosted in their country.

In 2015, Mexico and Jamaica were the two teams invited to participate in the Copa America.

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