Cape Verde Islands have been disqualified from World Cup qualifying after fielding an ineligible player, with Tunisia taking their place in next-month’s playoffs.
Cape Verde believed they had pipped Tunisia to a place in the African qualifying playoffs after claiming a shock 2-0 away win against the Carthage Eagles in their decisive Group B showdown last Saturday.
However, the tiny island nation’s dreams were dashed after FIFA’s disciplinary committee judges that Steaua Bucharest defender Fernando Varela, who played against Tunisia, should have been serving a suspension.
Tunisia brought the issue to FIFA’s attention and world football’s governing body upheld the claim, reinstating the 2004 African Nations Cup champions, who will now compete in the final playoff round as one of ten group winners.
A statement on FIFA's official website read: "By means of a telephone conference, the FIFA Disciplinary Committee has today taken a decision to sanction the Cape Verdean Football Association (FCF) for fielding an ineligible player in the preliminary competition match for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil between Tunisia and the Cape Verde Islands on 7 September 2013.
"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 having dropped to second place in Group B with nine points while Tunisia finish first with 14 points and will now advance.
Cape Verde will not progress to final round of African zone qualifiers after fielding an ineligible player in their #WCQ on 7 Sept (1/2).— FIFA Media (@fifamedia) September 12, 2013
"The FCF has also received a fine of CHF 6,000 (£4,000) after the FIFA Disciplinary Committee considered the FCF liable for having breached art. 55 par. 1 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code and art. 8 of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Regulations.
"The sanction relates to the Cape Verde player Fernando Varela failing to serve the full four-match suspension imposed on him after receiving a red card for unsporting conduct towards a match official during a FIFA World Cup qualifier on 24 March 2013."
FIFA did not specify whether Cape Verde have the right to appeal the decision.
Cape Verde were one of the surprise packages of the 2013 African Nations Cup as, led by manager and air traffic controller Lucio Antunes, they reached the quarter-finals on their first appearance at the continental tournament.
Had they managed to secure an unlikely qualification for the World Cup, Cape Verde would have been the smallest ever country to do so, with a population of around 500,000 people.
The draw for the African playoff round takes place on Monday 16th September in Cairo.