FIFA has ordered Bolivia to forfeit two World Cup qualifying matches for fielding an ineligible player, a ruling that improves Chile’s qualification chances and harms Argentina’s.
FIFA said Tuesday that Bolivia’s 0-0 draw with Chile and 2-0 win over Peru in September are now 3-0 losses by default.
Chile gains two points to lift it level with Argentina on points and goal difference in fifth place in the South American qualifying group. The fifth-place team enters a playoff against a team from Oceania to decide which advances to play in Russia.
“The sanction relates to the player Nelson Cabrera who was fielded by Bolivia in breach of the rules on eligibility to play for representative teams,” FIFA said in a statement.
FIFA received complaints from Chile and Peru about Paraguay-born defender Cabrera, who previously played for Paraguay’s national team.
Bolivia used the 33-year-old Cabrera as a late substitute in both disputed matches, in La Paz, Bolivia, on Sept. 1, and five days later in Santiago, Chile. Bolivia did not include Cabrera in its squad ahead of a 5-0 loss at Brazil on Oct. 6.
It was unclear if Bolivia failed to apply properly for Cabrera’s transfer of allegiance, or if he was never eligible for his second national team.
Despite the FIFA investigation, Bolivia already had little chance of qualifying. It will stay in ninth place in the 10-team group, now with only four points after 10 matches.
Bolivia can appeal the decision.