Japan Withdraws From Copa America Following Earthquake, Tsunami

Japan withdrew from July’s Copa America soccer tournament as the country deals with the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated its northeast region.

Asian champion Japan had been invited alongside Mexico to play as guest nations in South America’s continental championship, which will take place July 1-25 in Argentina.

“The priority at this moment is to continue saving lives and rebuilding the country,” Japanese Football Association president Junji Ogura said on the South American Football Confederation, or CONMEBOL, website. “We are sorry to be pulling out.”

CONMEBOL President Nicolas Leoz said in a statement that he “deeply lamented” Japan’s withdrawal from the 12-nation event and that he’d consult other members of the organization to decide what to do with the vacant place in the tournament.