Argentina’s hope of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup suffered a major blow as apex football body FIFA ordered Bolivia to forfeit two World Cup qualifying games for fielding an ineligible player.
The ruling is one that favours current Copa America champions and Argentina’s archrival, Chile. The move is a major blow to the qualification hopes of the South American giant.
FIFA announced on Tuesday, November 1 2016 that the goalless draw Bolivia played against Chile and the 2-0 triumph over Peru in September are automatically 3-0 losses due to their actions. The two points gain lifts Chile to fifth place. They share the same points and goals’ difference with Argentina in the CONMEBOL World Cup 2018 qualifying standings. Chile were on a tight rope but a fifth place end for them means they would enter a play-off against a team from Oceania to get a chance to play in Russia.
“The sanction relates to the player Nelson Cabrera who was fielded by Bolivia in breach of the rules on eligibility to play for representative teams,” FIFA statement on the matter reads. There were complaints from Chile and Peru about the Paraguay-born defender. Cabrera used to play for the Paraguay national team but Bolivia went ahead to field the 33-year old as a late substitute in both games. The first at La Paz, Bolivia and the second five days later when they played Chile at Santiago. It remains unclear if Bolivia failed to apply for transfer of allegiance or if the issue borders on eligibility to play for another national team side. However, Bolivia did not field the player when they lost 5-0 to Brazil on October 6.
The points’ deduction would not affect Bolivia hope at appearing at the World Cup in 2018 as they had very little chances of qualifying. After 10 games, Bolivia have just four points but will appeal the decision likely for ethical reasons.