IT’S time for a feast of Samba football as the Copa America gets underway in Brazil.
But you may be surprised to see Qatar and Japan, who were the two Asian Cup finalists, competing in the twelve-team tournament.
Why are Qatar and Japan 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 tournament, as was the case for the 2016 competition in the United States.
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.
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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.
Who will Qatar and Japan play?
Qatar face the perfect preparation for the 2022 World Cup with a daunting match against Lionel Messi and Argentina.
They will also take on Colombia and Paraguay in Group B.
Japan have been drawn in Group C alongside Uruguay, Chile and Ecuador.
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.