Argentina confirm Copa withdrawal

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Argentina have pulled out of the Copa America after the South American Football Confederation announced that the tournament is to go ahead as originally scheduled in Colombia, starting on Wednesday.

The Confederation had first postponed the event for a year following safety fears, after the kidnapping of an organising official added to the concerns caused by a spate of bombings in host cities. However, due to pressure from the Colombian government and event sponsors, the 2001 Copa America will take place as planned.

Canada, invited to play in the Copa as a guest nation, have also pulled out. "This caught us completely by surprise. We haven't spoken to any of the clubs and the team is completely scattered," said their spokesman Morgan Quarry.

The withdrawal of Argentina and Canada leaves the organisers with the problem of having only 10 participating nations, most of which seem certain to send second-string squads to a tournament which was fast losing importance and credibility. Even before the postponement, Brazil, Uruguay, Peru and Colombia had decided to rest their best players, following a recent trend when the Copa has played second fiddle to the World Cup qualifying competition.