Chile and Peru might have once rejoiced over Bolivia fielding an ineligible player during their CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifying matches, as it scored them free points, but those two nations will be in low spirits following a new ruling by the Tribunal Arbitral du Sport (the international sporting arbitration court, TAS for short).
Let’s break this down: Bolivia fielded defender Nelson Cabrera, who was later found to be ineligible, in qualifying matches against Chile and Peru back in September. These matches ended in a Bolivia 2-0 victory over Peru, and a 0-0 draw with Chile. However, due to the ineligibility of Cabrera, Bolivia was forced to forfeit both results, giving Peru an extra 3 points and Chile a extra 2. Here is where things get complicated.
Because the appeal that initially netted the free points for Peru and Chile was filed over 24 hours after their respective matches, reports are stating that the TAS has ruled that the original decision was to be annulled. So, while Bolivia will still lose the 3 points from the Peru match and the 1 point from the Chile match, those countries will not receive the respective points that would come from a normal forfeit.
Cabrera was ruled ineligible after it was found that he had played in a friendly for Paraguay in 2007 before moving to Bolivia in 2013; FIFA bylaws require a five-year waiting period with continuous residence before a player can change the team that he is representing in international competition.
The new sanctions against Peru and Chile will be handed down before the the next window of the South American qualifiers, which goes from August 31st to September 5th. Currently, Chile stands in third place–tied with Uruguay–with 23 points, while Argentina is in fifth place with 22.
Once the points are removed, however, Argentina will jump into 4th place–which comes with automatic qualification to the Russia 2018 World Cup–while Chile will drop into the regional playoff slot with 21 points. Speaking about the decision, Chilean midfielder Marcelo Diaz had nothing but anger, saying that “I think they’ll take away the points because in football, there’s a lot of dark hands.”
With the sanctions looming, Chile and Peru will have their work cut out for them when qualifying resumes; Chile should be safe if they ride their great showing in the Confederations Cup the rest of the way, but the loss of 3 points might be too much for Peru to overcome with only a handful of games to go in qualifying.