Japan withdrawn from SheBelieves Cup over virus crisis

Los Angeles (AFP) –


Asian giants Japan have withdrawn from the SheBelieves Cup women's international football tournament due to take place in Florida next month because of the country's surging coronavirus crisis.

A statement from the United States Soccer Federation said the reigning Asian champions would be replaced by Argentina in the four-nation event which also includes Brazil and Canada as well as hosts the USA.

The USSF said the previously arranged schedule of fixtures would remain the same, with Argentina slotting into Japan's place.

The round-robin tournament kicks off at Orlando's Exploria Stadium with double-headers between Brazil and Argentina followed by the USA against Canada.

Japan's withdrawal comes with large parts of the country under a state of emergency following a surge in Covid-19 cases just six months before Tokyo is due to stage the Olympic games.

Florida has been one of the worst-hit US states during the pandemic, but has continued to host high-profile sporting events, including the finale to last year's NBA season and Major League's Soccer's restart tournament.

US Soccer said Thursday that the SheBelieves Cup would take place in a similarly tightly controlled environment.

All participating teams and staff entering the bubble will be tested for Covid-19 before travelling, upon arrival and every two days thereafter.

Teams will not begin full training until the results of all arrival tests have been processed, while attendance for each game will be limited.