Argentina currently stand outside the automatic World Cup qualifying spots, but that could be about to change due to a courtroom ruling
Life is rarely dull where CONMEBOL – South American football’s governing body – are concerned and amid growing rumours that a previous ruling to award Chile a victory will be overturned, pushing Argentina back into automatic World Cup qualification at the expense of the Copa America champions, the region’s football has once again proved that even its admin is exciting.
CONMEBOL’s decision to overturn Bolivia’s results earlier in the campaign had the knock-on effect of boosting Chile’s struggling qualification efforts and with four rounds remaining has La Roja in fourth but all that might be about to controversially change.
Nothing has yet been confirmed but whispers have grown louder in the past few days that the appeal lodged by Argentina, together with Ecuador, Uruguay, Paraguay and Colombia to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has been successful and the two points granted to Chile and the three to Peru will be removed.
The appeal relates to Bolivia fielding an ineligible player in their 2-0 win over Peru and goalless draw with Chile back in September and the initial ruling that decided to overturn both results and give the two opposition sides 3-0 victories.
In both cases, defender Nelson Cabrera featured for La Verde from the bench and despite the 34-year-old representing Bolivia at the Copa America Centenario it came to light that the Paraguayan-born player, who featured for the Guarani in a friendly in 2007, didn’t have the five years of continuous residence in Bolivia that FIFA dictates is required to be eligible.
Following the eventual appeal from Peru and Chile, the four points that Bolivia earned from the two rounds were stripped in addition to a hefty fine and 3-0 wins handed to the fortunate opposition.
#WCQ – CONMEBOL standings after 14 games per team.
Argentina went from 3rd to 5th. pic.twitter.com/XGznRqmKem
— Leo Messi ? (@WeAreMessi) March 29, 2017
Bolivia’s hopes of qualification were already virtually over but the three points awarded to Peru threw La Blanquirroja a lifeline and more significantly thrust Chile up in the automatic places in Russia at the expense of Lionel Messi and Argentina.
However, Peru and Chile did not present their appeals to CONMEBOL within 24 hours of their results and this appears to have been a major part of the counter-appeal made to CAS, given that FIFA’s same rules that dictated the result change also demand that swift time-frame.
After hearing from those directly involved and the appeals on behalf of the five aggrieved nations, it is understood that a mixed sanction will now be applied; Bolivia will not recover their points and will still be fined but crucially Peru and Chile will not be beneficiaries.
The next round of World Cup qualifiers take place on August 31st with Argentina traveling to Uruguay and Chile hosting Paraguay with the official announcement expected at some point before that.
Argentine Football Association (AFA) president Claudio Tapia had sounded confident on the subject when asked after the appeal to CAS: “We hope to reverse this dubious decision. Hopefully they’ll take the two points away from Chile and the qualifiers can go back to normal.”
Having already had Lionel Messi’s suspension overturned it could be another early success for Tapia’s presidency and the AFA but understandably Chile will be crying foul play. Celta Vigo midfielder Marcelo Diaz already fearing the worst: “I think they’ll take the points away because in football there are a lot of dark hands.”
Shady business or not, regardless of the outcome with four matches remaining and only Brazil already guaranteed a place at next summer’s World Cup, CONMEBOL qualification promises to go down to the wire.