Japan, Qatar and the history of guest teams at the Copa América

USA, Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras and Jamaica have all made up the numbers at the Copa América

By Aidan Williams for These Football Times

The 46th edition of the Copa América, the oldest tournament in international football, begins on Friday night when hosts Brazil take on Bolivia in São Paulo. Eagle-eyed observes may have noted that two countries have travelled a long way for this year’s tournament. Qatar and Japan, by coincidence the winners and runners-up in the Asian Cup held earlier this year, will both be in Brazil to compete for another piece of silverware.

Initial plans for the 2019 tournament involved six guest teams – to make a more mathematically pleasing field of 16 – but a lack of willing participants soon put paid to that idea. There was speculation about invites for Spain and Portugal but, given their involvement in the Nations League finals and Euro 2020 qualifiers, that was never a serious proposition. With the schedules of the Gold Cup and Africa Cup of Nations also clashing, Asia was the only place to go for guests. Bringing in six guest teams from Asia was never realistic, so the grandiose plans for expansion were shelved. Japan and Qatar would have to do.

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