Quake-hit Japan doubtful for Copa America

AFP, Monday 4 Apr 2011

Japan's football chief visits South America bearing the news that the Asian champions may have to pull out of the Copa America after earthquake caused nuclear disaster

Japan Football Association president Junji Ogura left for Asunción on Sunday to discuss how their earthquake and nuclear disaster has affected their ability to participate in Copa America.

Specifically, Ogura will hold talks with the head of the Paraguay-based South American confederation CONMEBOL and later with organisers of July's Copa America in Argentina.

Japan and Mexico are guests from other continental associations invited to the 2011 event.

"We had asked to be invited to the South American championship, first of all. Therefore, it is not for us to make a decision unilaterally," Ogura told Japanese media before departure.

"I will objectively explain the situation in Japan and ask for their judgement."

The 9.0-magnitude quake and tsunami on 11 March devastated Japan's Pacific coast and crippled a nuclear power plant, causing wide-ranging electricity cuts and heavy disruption to football, baseball and other sporting events.

The J-League has suspended its regular season for five rounds until 23 April to save the electricity used to stage night matches.

During a six-day tour of South America, Ogura is due to meet with CONMEBOL president Nicolas Leoz on Monday and later with Argentina Football Association president Julio Grondona and other Argentine football officials.

The South American continental cup would be a world-class test for the Blue Samurai, who won a record fourth Asian Cup in January before they kick off their qualifying campaign for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Ogura said that national coach Alberto Zaccheroni left the matter in his hands.

"He (Zaccheroni) naturally wants to play against the strong teams," Ogura said. "He understands that it is not realistic to consider sending a team with the best members" because of the disruption to the domestic calendar.

"He is leaving everything to me in the end."

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