Argentina currently lie precariously in fifth place, outside the automatic qualifying spots for the 2018 World Cup and in need of a playoff to reach Russia but that might be about to change if reports are correct and Chile have the two points awarded to them earlier in the campaign deducted.
Nothing has yet been confirmed but several rumours have surfaced 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 earlier decision to award Chile a victory over Bolivia will be reversed.
The appeal relates to Bolivia fielding an ineligible player in their 2-0 win over Peru and goalless draw with Chile.
In both cases, defender Nelson Cabrera featured from the bench and despite the player representing Bolivia at the Copa América it came to light that the Paraguayan-born player, who featured for the Guaraní in a friendly in 2007, didn’t have the five years of continuous residence in another country to be eligible according to FIFA’s rules.
FIFA’s disciplinary code dictated that Bolivia be sanctioned with 3-0 defeats in both matches and hit with a fine.
Bolivia’s hopes of qualification were already virtually over but the three points awarded to Peru threw La Blanquirroja a lifeline and more significantly have pushed Chile into the automatic qualification places at the expense of Argentina.
However, Peru and Chile did not present their appeals to CONMEBOL within 24 hours of the match and this is a factor taken into account by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
After hearing from those directly involved and the appeals from the five nations affected, it is understood that CAS will apply a mixed sanction; Bolivia will not gain the points and will still be fined but Peru and Chile will not benefit with the award of the three points.
The next round of World Cup qualifiers take place on August 31st with Argentina travelling to Uruguay and Chile hosting Paraguay with the official announcement expected at some points 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 success for Tapia and the AFA but understandably Chile will be crying foul play.
With four matches remaining and only Brazil guaranteed a place at next summer’s World Cup, CONMEBOL qualification promises to go down to the wire.