Ethiopia and Tunisia’s progress to the final round of African World Cup qualifying are in doubt as Fifa opened three probes into player eligibility.
On Sunday, Ethiopia beat South Africa 2-1 in Addis Ababa to seemingly reach the African play-offs.
Tunisia also believed they had gone through but Fifa is investigating a case involving Equatorial Guinea which could affect the Group B standings.
Togo are the third team in question, meaning Group I could also change.
Fifa rules state guilty teams “will be sanctioned by forfeiting the match”.
Ethiopia face accusations they fielded an ineligible player in the 2-1 win over Botswana on 8 June in Group A.
Minyahil Teshome Beyene received his second yellow card of the group campaign at home to Botswana in March and although this should have theoretically earned a suspension, the midfielder then played Ethiopia’s next match – away to the same opponents – in June.
However, the Ethiopian federation has yet to reveal the identity of the ineligible player in question for that fixture.
If the East Africans are found guilty, it would hand a lifeline back to 2010 World Cup hosts South Africa.
For should Ethiopia forfeit the victory against Botswana, then Bafana Bafana would only trail the group leaders by two points going into the final round of matches in September.
South Africa host Botswana in their final Group A qualifier, while Ethiopia travel to face Central African Republic.
Despite the potential setback, the president of the Ethiopian Football Federation, Sehilu Gebremariam, is still confident his side can progress.
“This is shocking news – but the point is that we are still leading the group and we believe that we shall still qualify for the next stage,” he told the BBC’s Newsday programme.
“We are scrutinizing the situation and we will give information to Fifa and to the public.”
He said they would be consulting the coaching staff to get their views on the situation before reacting further.
Fifa rules on player ineligibility
Article 55 of the Fifa Disciplinary Code states:
- If a player takes part in an ofﬁcial match despite being ineligible, his team will be sanctioned by forfeiting the match and paying a minimum ﬁne of CHF 6,000
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