Japan’s chances of playing in the Copa America have been revived after organizers urged the Japan Football Association to reconsider pulling out of the South American continental championship.
Argentina Football Association President Julio Grondona met with his JFA counterpart Junji Ogura on Tuesday, when he pleaded for Japan to stay on as guest participants at the July 1-24 Copa America.
Now, in the latest turn of events, it appears the JFA will at least try and oblige as general secretary Kozo Tashima said Wednesday that Japan will rethink its plans for the summer.
According to Tashima, the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) wants to aid relief efforts of the March 11 earthquake victims through the tournament.
A decision is expected to be reached after the JFA and J. League executive committees meet over the next several days.
“I don’t know how it will end. We could withdraw, we could play,” Tashima said. “It’s up to us at the JFA to see what we can come up with.”
Ogura had told CONMEBOL President Nicolas Leoz on Monday that Alberto Zaccheroni’s side would have to withdraw after the quake forced major rescheduling of the J. League fixtures.
J. League and Nabisco Cup games have been suspended since the 9.0-magnitude struck Japan, and will not restart until April 23. July had been blocked out for the Copa America, but will now be used to hold the slew of makeup matches.
With an already crowded calendar made even more crowded by the quake, J. League clubs do not want to release their players for the Copa America. European teams are also not obligated to release any Japanese players for the event since Japan is a guest participant.
J. League Chairman Kazumi Ohigashi was not too pleased to hear the JFA has gone back to the drawing board.
“The teams feel strongly about not wanting to let go of their players in a crucial part of the league championship,” Ohigashi said. “It’s what we told the JFA and we thought the matter was settled.
“It’s very troubling.”
Argentina said it can wait 10 days for Japan to make up its mind. World and European champion Spain and Costa Rica have been mentioned as possible replacements for the Asian champions.
The JFA said it has received 250 phone calls from fans urging Japan to participate in the Copa America.
Grampus denied win
NAGOYA (Kyodo) Kensuke Nagai’s brilliant first career goal wasn’t enough to give Nagoya Grampus their first victory in the Asian Champions League as Dragan Stojkovic’s side were held to a 1-1 home draw by FC Seoul on Wednesday evening.
Grampus picked up their first point of the competition in their first competitive match since the March 11 earthquake. A moment of silence was observed at Mizuho Athletics Stadium before kickoff.
Choi Hyun Tae struck for Seoul, who lead Group F with seven points from the first three games. Nagoya sit on just one point with a game in hand.
“I’m happy I scored,” said Nagai, the first-year striker from Fukuoka University and the top scorer at the Asian Games in November for gold medalists Japan. “I’m glad to have capitalized when I did.”
“But I hope we can win the next one which is also at home. We have to make sure not to lose.”