Ethiopia’s progress to the final round of African World Cup qualifying is in doubt after Fifa opened a disciplinary probe against them on Sunday. Earlier in the day, the East Africans beat South Africa 2-1 in Addis Ababa to seemingly reach the African play-offs.
However, their progress is in question after accusations they fielded an ineligible player in the 2-1 win over Botswana on 8 June. Fifa is also investigating Togo and Equatorial Guinea for the same offence.
A guilty verdict against all the sides would have serious ramifications in three of the groups trying to qualify for next year’s World Cup in Brazil. The case against the Ethiopians is pressing as a guilty verdict will hand a lifeline back to 2010 World Cup Bafana Bafana.
Currently five points off the top of Group A, South Africa would only be two points behind if the Ethiopians have to forfeit their victory against Botswana – and receive a technical defeat instead. The announcement of the world governing body’s probes will not only encourage South African football fans, for those supporting Cameroon and Cape Verde can also be boosted.
The Indomitable Lions were beaten 2-0 by Togo on 9 June but the six-time World Cup qualifiers now stand to gain the three points should the Togolese be found guilty. Such a scenario would move Cameroon, who currently trail Group I leaders Libya by two points, a point clear in the table.
The West Africans host the Libyans in both sides’ final encounter in September. Meanwhile, Equatorial Guinea allegedly fielded an ineligible player in their 4-3 defeat of island nation Cape Verde in March.
Although the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations co-hosts have appealed the decision, Fifa states that proceedings are still ongoing.
Should island nation Cape Verde receive the points from a match they originally lost, the passage of Tunisia to the African play-offs would also be in question. The Carthage Eagles drew 1-1 in Equatorial Guinea on Sunday to seemingly book their place but a technical victory for Cape Verde would lift the islanders up to nine points – just two behind the North Africans.
Once again, the two sides – Tunisia and Cape Verde – meet on the final day of qualifying, with the North Africans hosting the encounter.