Cape Verde have been tossed out of World Cup qualifying after it was revealed they fielded an ineligible player in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Tunisia.
“The match has been declared to be forfeited and awarded 3-0 in favour of Tunisia, meaning that the Cape Verde Islands will not progress to round three of the FIFA World Cup African zone qualifiers,” read a FIFA statement released on Thursday.
Defender Fernando Varela, who plays his club football in Romania for Steaua Bucharest, had initially been handed a four-match ban for unsporting conduct during a March 24 qualifier against Equatorial Guinea.
(Ironically, Cape Verde were awarded a 3-0 decision after it was found Equatorial Guinea had fielded an ineligible player in Malabo, where they had won 4-3.)
The suspension should have taken him through Saturday’s match against the Carthage Eagles, and while his side earned the win they needed to secure a place in Africa’s playoff round of qualifying, the 90 minutes he played ended up costing them one of the 10 spots.
Had they proceeded to qualify, Cape Verde would have become the smallest nation ever to contest a World Cup finals.
The immediate fallout from FIFA’s decision is that Tunisia, having initially finished second in African qualification Group B, go through to the playoffs, the matches for which will be drawn in Cairo on Monday.
The ruling also affects Burkina Faso, who will now be seeded for the draw.
In addition to their expulsion, the penalty will cost Cape Verde, who progressed to the quarterfinals of last February’s Africa Cup of Nations, 6,000 Swiss Francs.
Tunisia participated in each World Cup between 1998 and 2006 before failing to qualify for the 2010 instalment of the competition.
They now go into a draw that also includes Ivory Coast, Ghana, Algeria, Nigeria, Egypt, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Senegal and Ethiopia.