Soccer

Japan manager Hajime Moriyasu says building best squad for Copa America won't be easy

Kyodo

Japan manager Hajime Moriyasu said Wednesday it will be “difficult” to assemble the strongest possible squad for this summer’s Copa America in Brazil, with overseas clubs under no obligation to make Japanese players available for the tournament.

While the June 14 to July 7 Copa America is sanctioned by FIFA, clubs are only required to release players from countries in South America’s CONMEBOL federation.

“It’s difficult. If a club says no, there’s nothing we can do about it,” said Moriyasu, who recently visited Europe to observe Japanese players based there.

“There are many clubs from which we will have a hard time getting players released,” he said.

Japan will be making its second appearance at the South American continental tournament as an invited nation. Qatar — winner of this year’s Asian Cup and host of the 2022 World Cup — has also been invited.

German club Werder Bremen last month announced it would not allow forward Yuya Osako to attend the Copa America.

The 28-year-old Osako was limited by a gluteal injury at the Asian Cup in January and February, and has more recently suffered from back pain, leading the Bundesliga club to make him unavailable.

During his roughly two-week trip, the 50-year-old Moriyasu watched and met with Japanese players in Germany, Austria, England, Spain, France and the Netherlands.

Following speculation Japan would use the Copa America as a warmup for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics by sending an under-23 squad, Moriyasu said last December he would pick a full-strength senior squad.

The Samurai Blue will prepare for the tournament with a pair of friendlies on home soil against South American opponents. Japan will meet Colombia at Yokohama’s Nissan Stadium on March 22, followed by Bolivia at Kobe’s Noevir Stadium on March 26.

Japan has been drawn with two-time defending champion Chile, Uruguay and Ecuador in Group C for the Copa America. The Samurai Blue will play their opening match against Chile in Sao Paolo on June 17.