Coach Alberto Zaccheroni is hoisted in the air by his players in Doha in January [GALLO/GETTY]

Japan are out of the running to be the champions of two continents after the Asian Cup winners withdrew from the Copa America.

The Japanese pulled out of the South American championships for the second time in six weeks after failing to get the release of their European-based players, the Argentine Football Association (AFA) said on Monday.

The Samurai Blue, who were invited to the July 1-24 tournament in Argentina as guests, had been persuaded to reverse a decision to withdraw taken on April 4 following the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the country in March.

"I regret very much to communicate to you that the Japanese national team cannot take part in the Copa America," JFA president Junji Ogura told tournament organising committee chief Jose Luis Meiszner in a letter to the AFA.

"Although the European clubs understand our situation, unfortunately most of them have told us they cannot release their players," Ogura was quoted as saying on the AFA's website.
Ogura also explained it was difficult to assemble a squad of mainly home-based players since the domestic J-League calendar had been put back six weeks owing to the devastation of the earthquake and tsunami that left thousands dead, thousands more missing and sparked a nuclear scare.

The AFA said the South American Football Confederation would send an invitation to Costa Rica on Tuesday asking them if they would like to replace Japan.

Should they accept they would go into Group A with hosts Argentina, Bolivia and Colombia.

Japan won the Asian Cup in Qatar in January, beating Australia in the final. 

Source: Agencies