The Copa America is the continental competition for the nations in South America.
But this year the tournament will feature this year’s Asian Cup finalists Qatar and Japan after both nations received invitations to play from ruling body CONMEBOL.
CONMEBOL has a history of inviting nations to play in the championship, with the Confederation only having 10 member nations, therefore rely on at least two invitees in order to make up the numbers.
These teams in recent years have come in the form of the United States, Mexico and various nations from the Caribbean because of geographical proximity. However, this is the first year that two countries from outside the Americas will participate in the competition.
That being said, no invitational team has progressed from the group stage of the Copa America since 2007; so there is little expectation for both nations going into the tournament.
Initially the 2019 competition was going to run with 16 teams; three teams from North America and three from Asia. However, South American officials agreed that it should follow the usual structure of 12 teams.
All eyes are on Qatar ahead of the Copa America as the 2022 World Cup hosts have the chance to win two continental competitions in a year after they overcame Japan 3-1 in the AFC Asian Cup final in February – although they are considered to be huge underdogs in South America, as they were at the Asian Cup.
The nation also doesn’t make their debut in the tournament without controversy, with questions asked over the eligibility of their players – most notably star striker Ali Almoez who was born in Sudan and has had career spells in Belgium, Austria and Spain.
On the other hand, Japan, who are entering their first Copa América since 1999, will use the competition to test their young talents for next year’s Olympic games, with former Barcelona youngster Takefusa Kubo and 20-year-old defender Takehiro Tomiyasu regarded as the cream of the crop over in Asia.