The Socceroos have pulled out of this year’s Copa America tournament, the general secretary of the South American Football Confederation has announced.
Qatar, the only other non-South American side in the tournament, will also miss the event because it clashes with 2022 World Cup qualifying matches, Gonzalo Belloso says.
Australia was set to make its maiden appearance at the tournament, which will be hosted by Argentina and Colombia in June and July.
“Qatar and Australia will not come to play in the Copa America,” Belloso told Argentine radio station Radio Red.
He said the decision came after the Asian Football Confederation, of which both Australia and Qatar are members, moved forward dates for 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
The Copa America, the oldest tournament in international soccer, was postponed 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is due to be hosted in two nations for the first time.
The 12 sides were to be split into northern and southern groups, with Australia in the southern group with Bolivia, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile and hosts Argentina.
Qatar were set to play in the northern section against Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru and hosts Colombia.
In a statement, the Qatari FA apologised for the withdrawal, which it said followed the Asian Football Confederation’s decision to postpone the joint qualifying round for the 2022 World Cup and the 2023 AFC Asian Cup.
The qualifiers will be held in June 2021, conflicting with the schedule of Copa America.
Australia are also in the Asian confederation and affected by the changes.
Socceroos coach Graham Arnold in January said Australia was still preparing to play the tournament, but conceded the situation was changing every day and government help was needed.
Socceroo Jackson Irvine last year said the team had been looking forward to the chance to take on South America’s best footballers in their own backyard.
A CONMEBOL source said the governing body would look at the possibility of inviting two other teams to replace Australia and Qatar but the tournament will go ahead regardless, with 10 or 12 sides.
“Nothing will change, we will play with 10 if we have to,” the source told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
“No matter what happens, it’s the same format, same prize money, everything stays the same.”
The tournament is scheduled to kick off in Buenos Aires on June 11 and end with the final in Barranquilla, Colombia on July 10.