Brazil opens the action with victory – Preview of the CONMEBOL Copa America Brazil 2019
15 June 2019
The inaugural CONMEBOL Copa America, then known as the South American Football Championship, was held over 100 years ago in 1916. The tournament has changed its name and format over the years and the 45th edition of the tournament opened its action on Friday 14 June in Brazil. The tournament opener featured a match between Brazil and Bolivia at Morumbi Stadium in Sao Paulo, where the local side swept a 3-0 victory.
The CONMEBOL Copa America is the world’s oldest international continental football competition and teams from other continents have also been invited to participate in the competition since 1993. Japan made its first participation in 1999, followed by their invitation in 2011, but with the occurrence of the Great East Japan Earthquake, the team was not able to participate in that year. This year, along with Qatar, Japan was once again given the opportunity to participate in the prestigious tournament.
For this tournament, coach MORIYASU Hajime has selected a squad consisting 18 players from the U-22 generation, who will be competing at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, along with five other members over the age of 23, KAWASHIMA Eiji, OKAZAKI Shinji, SHIBASAKI Gaku, NAKAJIMA Shoya, and UEDA Naomichi.
With the invited teams like Japan having the obligation to compete in their own continental championships (in case for Japan and Qatar: AFC Asian Cup), the regulations under FIFA to summon players does not apply for this tournament. Thus, in the past, many invited teams have elected to enter the tournament with a selection of young players.
For example, in the 2011 edition of the tournament, Costa Rica took the spot after Japan declined the invitation, and entered mainly with their U-22 squad who were striving for the London Olympics. The Costa Rican players who earned valuable experience at the Copa America went onto make their way into the round of 16 at the FIFA World Cup in 2014.
In that sense, many teams have utilised the Copa America to strengthen their Olympics National Team. Also, in 2011, Mexico entered the tournament with their Olympics category, and despite losing all three matches, many of the players who competed at the Copa America went onto lead the team to earn the gold medal at the London Olympics held in the following year.
“By allowing the young generation to experience a wonderful tournament like the Copa America, it gives them the opportunity to grow as a player and help strengthen the team for the upcoming Olympics. Through the intense competition against the South American teams, I want my players to gain as many learning experiences as possible.”
As stated above, coach Moriyasu has made his intention clear on why he is entering the Copa America with the young squad. But at the same time, he also shared that he will be demanding the young players to hold the responsibility to play as the senior team of the Japan National Team.
“Our goal at the Tokyo Olympics is to win the gold medal. In order to achieve that goal, the players must have the calibre to compete at the senior team level. I want our players to play as many matches as possible while representing the senior team at this tournament.”
Coach Moriyasu mentioned that they will undoubtingly be striving to win matches. However, knowing how steep the competition can be at this tournament, the coach shared his aspiration to “win through the group stage and play as many matches as possible.”
“We will be facing some of the best players in the world, and every aspect of the tournament is at a high level. There are so many things we need to learn from and obtain through the competition.”
The 23 players of the SAMURAI BLUE will now enter the competition against the South American powerhouses. They will first face Chile, who is led by the FC Barcelona star, Arturo VIDAL. The match will kick-off on Monday 17 June at 20:00 local time (Tuesday 18 at 8:00 Japan time).
CONMEBOL Copa America Brazil 2019
Tournament Dates: Fri. 14 June - Sun. 7 July 2019
Tue. 18 June 2019, 8:00 (Japan time)
vs Chile National Team
Fri. 21 June 2019, 8:00 (Japan time)
vs Uruguay National Team
Tue. 25 June 2019, 8:00 (Japan time)
vs Ecuador National Team
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