• Kyodo, Staff Report


Japan has been drawn with two-time defending champion Chile, Uruguay and Ecuador in Group C for this year’s Copa America in Brazil, the South American Football Confederation announced Thursday.

The Samurai Blue, currently ranked 50th by FIFA, will open their campaign against No. 13 Chile on June 17 in Sao Paulo. Hajime Moriyasu’s squad will then face No. 7 Uruguay on June 20 in Porto Alegre before playing their final group-stage match against 57th-ranked Ecuador four days later in Belo Horizonte.

Uruguay, winner of a record 15 Copa America titles, will be out for revenge following last October’s 4-3 friendly loss to Japan in Saitama.

Japan will be making its second appearance at South America’s continental tournament as an invited nation. Qatar, host of the 2022 World Cup, has also been invited to the competition, which will take place from June 14 to July 7.

The Japan Football Association said in December it will send a full-strength senior squad to the tournament, despite initially considering sending an under-23 squad in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The Samurai Blue contested the 1999 tournament in Paraguay, exiting in the group stage following a draw and two losses. They were also invited to the 2011 tournament in Argentina, but pulled out after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami disaster caused major disruptions to the J. League’s fixture schedule.

Twelve teams will compete in three groups, with eight teams advancing to the knockout stage. The July 7 final will take place at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana, which hosted the 2014 World Cup final and the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Summer Olympics as well as that competition’s gold medal matches for both men’s and women’s soccer.

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