Japan, Argentina under-24s set to play friendlies in Japan

FILE PHOTO: The Olympic rings are pictured in front of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) headquarters during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Lausanne, Switzerland, February 24, 2021. REUTERS/Denis?Balibouse

(Reuters) - Japan's Olympic men's football team will ramp up its preparations for the Tokyo Games by hosting two friendlies against their under-24 counterparts from Argentina later this month, the Japan Football Association (JFA) said on Monday.

The first match will be held at Tokyo's Ajinomoto Stadium on March 26 before the sides face each other again in three days at the Mikuni World Stadium in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka.

With Japan having temporarily barred entry of foreign athletes to contain a surge in COVID-19 cases, the JFA said the matches are subject to government lifting restrictions or granting special exemption.

Nikkei reported last week that the emergency declaration in Japan is set to be lifted on March 7 with the travel ban on foreign athletes removed shortly after.

Argentina, the 2004 and 2008 Olympic champions, have secured qualification for the Tokyo Games, which begins on July 23, as one of two South American representatives alongside Brazil.

Olympic football is usually restricted to under-23 teams for the men's tournament, with three overage players allowed per team.

But the age bracket has been raised for the Tokyo Games in line with the one-year postponement of the event due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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