World Cup Qualifiers - CONMEBOL

World Cup Qualifiers - CONMEBOL (82)

FIFA has agreed to cancel the World Cup qualifier between Brazil and Argentina.

The fixture in September was stopped shortly after kick-off when Brazilian health officials entered the field claiming four Argentina players had broken COVID-19 protocols.

FIFA was pushing for the clash to be rescheduled for next month, despite the fact the game was essentially meaningless with both teams having already qualified for the World Cup in Qatar later this year.

The confederations of Brazil and Argentina both opposed FIFA's demand, with the case taken to the Court for Arbitration of Sport (CAS) where all three parties agreed to the deal.

Brazil's Tite and Argentina's Lionel Scaloni argued the risk of injuries and suspensions were too high for the game to be played, which would have occurred just two months before the World Cup is scheduled to begin.

With the agreement, both South American teams are free to schedule friendlies against opponents of their choosing for their World Cup preparations – where they will be looking to end Europe's dominance on the world stage.

Brazil have not won the tournament since 2002 and were humiliated by Germany in the semi-finals when hosting the tournament in 2014, where Argentina were subsequently beaten in the final.

Argentina are alongside Mexico, Poland and Saudi Arabia in Group C, while Brazil are in Group G with Serbia, Switzerland and Cameroon.

Chile's appeal to have Ecuador disqualified from the World Cup in Qatar has been rejected by FIFA.

The appeal was made on the basis of Ecuador selecting an ineligible player during their qualifying campaign.

Football's world governing body opened disciplinary proceedings last month following allegations that right-back Byron Castillo is Colombian and not eligible to represent Ecuador.

Castillo made eight appearances for Ecuador in their South American qualifying campaign.

Chile, who failed to qualify for the World Cup, lodged a complaint, but FIFA confirmed on Friday that Ecuador will keep their place at the World Cup, which starts in November.

A statement on FIFA's website read: "The FIFA Disciplinary Committee has rendered its decision in relation to the potential ineligibility of the player Byron David Castillo Segura with regard to his participation in eight qualifying matches of the national team of the Ecuadorian Football Association (FEF) in the preliminary competition of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.

"After analysing the submissions of all parties concerned and considering all elements brought before it, the FIFA Disciplinary Committee has decided to close the proceedings initiated against the FEF.

"The Disciplinary Committee's findings were notified today to the parties concerned. In accordance with the relevant provisions of the FIFA Disciplinary Code, the parties have 10 days in which to request a motivated decision, which, if requested, would subsequently be published on legal.fifa.com. The present decision remains subject to an appeal before the FIFA Appeal Committee."

La Roja, who finished seventh to miss out on a play-off spot, would have taken Ecuador's place had FIFA disqualified them. 

Ecuador will face hosts Qatar, Netherlands and Senegal in Group A.

FIFA has opened disciplinary proceedings against Ecuador over the potential use of an ineligible player in their successful World Cup qualifying campaign. Chile last week asked the world football governing…

FIFA has confirmed Brazil and Argentina will have to replay last September's abandoned World Cup qualifier after rejecting appeals from both countries' football federations. 

The original fixture in Sao Paolo was abandoned after just five minutes when Brazilian health officials entered the pitch, with players Emiliano Martinez, Emiliano Buendia, Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso accused by the Brazilian government of providing false information on their immigration forms and breaking the nation's Covid-19 laws.

FIFA's original ruling on the matter was announced in February, ordering the fixture to be replayed with all four of those players suspended and handing fines to both sides.

Both countries' federations subsequently lodged appeals against those measures, but FIFA has now confirmed the fixture will be replayed at an as-yet unspecified date and venue.

A statement from world football's governing body on Monday said: "The FIFA Appeal Committee has taken decisions on the appeals lodged by the Brazilian Football Association (CBF) and the Argentinian Football Association (AFA).

"After analysing the submissions of both parties and considering all circumstances of the case, the Appeal Committee confirmed that the match would be replayed and also upheld the fine of CHF 50,000 that was imposed on both associations as a result of the abandonment."

Brazil and Argentina have both qualified for the tournament in Qatar in comfortable fashion, with Brazil sitting top of the CONMEBOL qualification group with 45 points after an as-yet unbeaten campaign, and Argentina second with 39 points, meaning the replayed fixture will have no impact on the final standings.

Chile have demanded FIFA investigate allegations that World Cup qualification rivals Ecuador used an ineligible player during their successful campaign.

A statement from the Federacion de Futbol de Chile outlined their belief that right back Byron Castillo was born in Colombia in 1995, not in Ecuador in 1998, as had previously been thought to be the case.

Castillo made eight appearances for Ecuador in their World Cup qualifying campaign, with La Tri set to take part in the tournament in Qatar at the end of this year.

Ecuador have been drawn in Group A alongside hosts Qatar, as well as Senegal and the Netherlands.

However, Chile released a statement on Thursday detailing their allegations around Castillo and demanding an investigation from FIFA.

La Roja finished seventh in South American World Cup qualifying, just missing out on a play-off spot.

"We inform that, on May 4, through the Carlezzo Abogados studio, we sent to the FIFA Disciplinary Commission a complaint against the player Byron David Castillo Segura and the Ecuadorian Football Federation (FEF), due to the use of false birth certificate, false declaration of age and false nationality by the aforementioned player," the statement read.

"We understand, based on all the information and documents collected, that the facts are too serious and must be thoroughly investigated by FIFA.

"There are innumerable proofs that the player was born in Colombia, in the city of Tumaco, on July 25, 1995, and not on November 10, 1998, in the Ecuadorian city of General Villamil Playas.

"The investigations carried out in Ecuador, including a legal report by the National Directorate of Civil Registry, the highest authority in the matter in this country, declared the existence of inconsistencies in the birth certificate presented by the player, and reported that this document did not exist in its internal files, pointing out other weaknesses in the document, to conclude that it was possibly fraudulent.

"In addition, an investigative commission of the Ecuadorian Football Federation, aimed at clarifying the irregularities existing in the records of players before this federation, concluded that the player was Colombian.

"All that, obviously, was fully known to the FEF. The world of football cannot close its eyes to so many tests. The practice of serious and conscious irregularities in the registration of players cannot be accepted, especially when we talk about a world competition. There must be fair play on and off the pitch."

 

James Rodriguez said his soul is broken by the fact that Colombia will not be at the 2022 World Cup, after they failed to qualify for a place in Qatar.

Colombia beat Venezuela 1-0 on Tuesday, with James scoring the winner from the penalty spot.

However, Peru beat Paraguay to finish one point above Colombia in the CONMEBOL standings, meaning they took fifth place and will go up against either Australia or the United Arab Emirates in an inter-confederation play-off.

James, who shot to stardom with his standout performances for Colombia at the 2014 World Cup when winning the Golden Boot, plays his club football in Qatar, yet one of South American football's most prominent poster boys will not be at the showpiece tournament.

It is a fall from grace for Colombia, who reached the quarter-finals in 2014 and the last 16 in 2018, having failed to qualify for the 2002, 2006 and 2010 editions of the tournament, while they also finished third in the 2021 Copa America.

Former Real Madrid and Bayern Munich playmaker James will be 34 by the time the 2026 World Cup comes around, meaning he may have missed his last chance to represent his country on the biggest stage. 

"The most beautiful thing that has happened to me in my career as a footballer was attending two World Cups representing the shirt that I love the most, the yellow of my national team," he wrote on social media.

"Today I am in deep pain. I believe that our country has the talent and players to always be part of the World Cup.

"I feel sad and not only for myself, but also for my colleagues who deserve to shine and I know they have how. I don't know if [I'm] coming for the next processes, I don't know if [I'll be] here or not.

"What I do know is that it breaks my soul to lose, it makes me uncomfortable not being classified and this cannot happen again."

James, who disputed coach Reinaldo Rueda's reasoning as to why he was not selected for last year's Copa America, also suggested Colombia must reassess after their failure.

"I want Colombia to go to all the World Cups," he wrote.

"We must plan, join forces and work hard from the administrative and sports aspects to once again show the world the power and talent of our land."

Luis Suarez reflected on a "special night" after overtaking Lionel Messi as the top-scoring player in South American World Cup qualifiers during Uruguay's win against Chile.

The Atletico Madrid striker scored an impressive bicycle-kick to open the scoring in Tuesday's contest before Federico Valverde added a late second in the 2-0 victory.

That goal sealed a third-placed finish for Uruguay behind Brazil and Argentina as La Celeste qualified for the World Cup for a fourth edition running, and a fifth time in six attempts.

Suarez has now found the net 29 times for his country in 62 World Cup qualifiers, one goal more than Messi having played two games more.

Next on the list is Bolivia striker Marcelo Moreno, who has 22 goals in 58 games, followed by Chile's Alexis Sanchez (20 in 56) and Argentina great Hernan Crespo (19 in 33).

 

Former Barcelona striker Suarez posted an image of himself with his match shirt on the back of the victory – Uruguay's fourth in a row under new head coach Diego Alonso.

That is their best run since an identical streak between March and June 2019 under former boss Oscar Tabarez, who was in charge for 15 years before leaving last November.

"Special night, special match, special shirt and with a goal," Suarez posted. "What more can I ask for to live unique and unforgettable moments with my country?"

Uruguay will learn their World Cup group opponents on Friday, along with fellow South American participants Brazil, Argentina and Ecuador. 

Fifth-placed Peru must come through an inter-confederation play-off against either Australia or the United Arab Emirates in June.

As for Suarez, he is set to return to club duty on Saturday when Atletico host Deportivo Alaves in LaLiga.

Brazil head coach Tite praised the performance of his much-changed Brazil side after a comfortable 4-0 win in World Cup qualifying in Bolivia on Tuesday.

Goals from Lucas Paqueta, Richarlison (two) and Bruno Guimaraes sealed the routine victory in La Paz, a notoriously difficult place to play football given its high altitude, which Tite referenced before the game.

The Selecao had already qualified for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and so Tite was happy to ring the changes after also winning 4-0 against Chile last week, with Philippe Coutinho and Richarlison coming in for Vinicius Jr and the suspended Neymar.

There were also starts for Dani Alves, Eder Militao, Alex Telles, Fabinho and Guimaraes, who scored his first goal at international level.

"We need to see the game in its whole context," Tite said. "It was a linear situation in the first and second half. The changes helped to maintain our balance.

"In terms of tactics, we play in a 4-4-3 almost always, even in different situations. Sometimes we have a player who floats, like Coutinho today. The striker attacked space today. In the other game it was two central defenders with two arrows on their side."

The 60-year-old also referenced the difficulty of playing in La Paz, saying he even struggles with it just standing on the touchline.

"To come up against such adversity and be able to produce this score, with a lot of shots, maintaining our level and making changes to the team without losing our model [was impressive]," he said. "Our recovery of ball possession remained high, and we kept up very high levels of concentration.

"My head hurts, I go upstairs and I gasp. The athlete diminishes his physical capacity for performance. It was [a performance above expectations]. To put in that performance against Bolivia here in La Paz is very difficult.

"A team that has changed its starting lineups and maintains a pattern, this is significant. We always try to do the best job possible. The feeling I have is one of peace."

Brazil sit top of South American qualifying with a six-point lead after securing 14 wins and three draws from their 17 games, with only the re-arranged clash against Argentina still to play.

Peru are one game away from back-to-back World Cup finals appearances following Tuesday's 2-0 win over Paraguay and head coach Ricardo Gareca lauded his side who seemed set to miss out six months ago.

La Blanquirroja clinched fifth spot in World Cup qualifying in CONMEBOL with the victory over Paraguay, finishing ahead of Colombia and Chile who were eliminated.

Peru's win means they will play the fifth-ranked team from the Asian Football Confederation, either Australia or UAE, who will meet in a one-off playoff in Doha in June. The inter-confederation playoff will also be played as a one-off in Doha on June 13 or 14.

Gareca's side seemed a long shot to claim fifth after back-to-back 1-0 losses to Bolivia and Argentina which left them second last in the standings in October but rallied by claiming 13 points from a possible 18 in their final six qualifiers.

“We didn't start the qualifiers well, but we rebounded well," Gareca told reporters. "It gave us the possibility to get to the playoff spot.

"I have to congratulate the boys and thank the people for the support. It was incredible. When I renewed my contract, this is what I wanted."

Gareca has been widely praised within Peru for his efforts, having taken over as national team boss in March 2015 and leading the side to its first World Cup in 36 years in 2018 along with the 2019 Copa America final.

The sentiment has been different for Colombia head coach Reinaldo Rueda, who achieved a rare feat of guiding two sides in qualifying who both failed to reach the World Cup. Rueda had led Chile early in qualifying before being dismissed, taking over Colombia in January.

"I think that not achieving the goal is a shame for Colombian football," Rueda told reporters after Colombia's 1-0 win in Venezuela which was not enough. "It is a very strong frustration. It was added, but the great result was not given."

"I think it is very clear that my contract was subject to qualifying for the World Cup, so it is an evaluation that the board will have to do, of the work we have done."

Chile's failure means they have missed the past two World Cups, meaning the international careers of several of their golden generation, including Alexis Sanchez, Arturo Vidal, Charles Aranguiz, Claudio Bravo, Mauricio Isla, Gary Medel and Eduardo Vargas, may come to an end.

Chile head coach Martin Lasarte told reporters after their 2-0 home loss to Uruguay: "I think some players from the 'golden generation' still have something to give."

Despite making history in Argentina's 1-1 draw against Ecuador, manager Lionel Scaloni seemed disappointed to share the points away from home.

It looked like it was going to be a win and a clean sheet for the visiting side after Julian Alvarez put them up in the first half, before late drama.

VAR ruled that a 90th-minute header struck the arm of an Argentinian defender, and Enner Valencia stepped up from the penalty spot and put home the rebound after his initial strike was saved.

With the result, Argentina have now played 31 games since their last loss, dating back to the 2019 Copa America semi-final, which is the longest active unbeaten run in international football.

Argentina's 31-game unbeaten streak also matched the record feat achieved by the national team from 1991 to 1993.

However Scaloni, who received a yellow card from the sideline, was focused on the difficulty of the World Cup qualifying campaign as a whole.

"These two dates [against Venezuela and Ecuador] were very hard for us," he told reporters.

"Between suspensions, injuries and players who arrived very fair, we had to support each other and I appreciate that very much. 

"They are very hard to play – sometimes people really don't realise how hard they are. I was just talking to the boys from the under-20s who came to watch the match, and they couldn't understand the degree of difficulty that the matches present.

"Today's game was played on a field that was not in good condition – it was almost impossible to play from below – even so, we had a good first half, but in the second they came to us."

It was a different story for Ecuador manager Gustavo Alfaro, who addressed the crowd and called it "one of the happiest moments of my life".

"I thank my family, everyone who was part of this process and this achievement, which is the most important in my career," he said.

"I am living one of the happiest moments of my life. Nobody believed in Ecuador, and today it stands up and says present to the world.

"The challenge that is coming to us [the World Cup] is for 17 million people."

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