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 body to investigate allegations that right-back Byron Castillo is actually Colombian and not eligible to represent Ecuador.

Castillo played eight times for Ecuador in South American qualifying, including a goalless draw with Chile in September and a 2-0 victory in November.

La Roja finished seventh, meaning they just missed out on a play-off spot, but believe Ecuador should be expelled from the quadrennial competition.

And FIFA confirmed on Wednesday that it is looking into the recent complaint made by the Federacion de Futbol de Chile.

The statement read: "FIFA has decided to open disciplinary proceedings in relation to Byron David Castillo Segura's possible breach of the call criteria for the indicated matches. 

"In this context, the FEF and the Peruvian Football Federation have been invited to present their positions before the FIFA Disciplinary Committee."

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

FIFA sanctioned Bolivia for fielding ineligible player Nelson Cabrera in 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Peru and Chile, awarding their opponents 3-0 wins in both instances.

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."

Brazil maintained their unbeaten record in qualifying for the 2022 World Cup on Tuesday after a 4-0 win over Bolivia in La Paz.

At the notoriously tricky Estadio Hernando Siles, first-half goals from Lucas Paqueta, Richarlison and Bruno Guimaraes proved the difference.

With the likes of Neymar, Casemiro, Vinicius Junior and Fred all rested, Tite's side were by no means dominant, but characteristically did enough to secure a 14th win out of 17 games.

Though qualification is not technically finished for Brazil, with their abandoned game with Argentina set to be rescheduled, that fixture with their arch rivals will likely be nothing more than a glorified friendly for both teams as they prepare for the finals in Qatar.

The best chance in the opening 20 minutes fell to the hosts, with Henry Vaca cutting inside on Marquinhos and shooting straight at Allisson.

They were made to pay only moments later via fantastic individual work from Paqueta in the 24th minute, the Lyon man playing a one-two with Guimaraes before coolly converting with only Ruben Cordano to beat in the Bolivian goal.

With a simple tap-in, Richarlison doubled the advantage just before half-time. Fabinho drove up the pitch upon Brazil gaining possession and Antony picked out the Everton attacker free at the back post to provide the assist.

It wasn't all clear skies for the Selecao in the altitude of La Paz, with Alisson again called into action in the 52nd minute to keep out Ramiro Vaca's deflected effort.

Alisson was left scrambling only two minutes later with Henry Vaca providing a dangerous cross to the back post for his namesake, who could not get a foot onto the ball for what would have been a certain goal.

Brazil were ruthless when presented opportunities and Guimaraes spectacularly made it three in the 66th minute after another quick counter, volleying home a first-time volley following good work from Gabriel Martinelli.

Richarlison rounded off the scoring from a quick throw-in during injury time, following up Rodrygo's initial attempt after a Guimaraes dart behind the defensive line.

Angel Di Maria should continue playing in Europe for another one or two seasons despite his uncertain future with Paris Saint-Germain.

That is the view of Di Maria's father Miguel as the winger reviews his career options.

Di Maria is expected to leave PSG when his contract expires at the end of the season.

The former Real Madrid and Manchester United player has only started four times in Ligue 1 since the start of 2022 and his importance to the team appears to be diminishing.

Di Maria has three goals and three assists from 20 league appearances this season, but his father Miguel believes he still has more to do in Europe and should remain there with the World Cup approaching.

"I would like him to play one or two more years in Europe and then come back [to Argentina]," Miguel said to Radio La Red. 

"He is just 34 years old and he still has a career [at the highest level]. 

"He takes great care of himself, so he has to continue playing [in Europe]." 

Di Maria has had a successful seven seasons with PSG since arriving from Old Trafford in 2015 after a disappointing campaign in the Premier League.

He is closing in on a fifth Ligue 1 title with Mauricio Pochettino's men, but is now deciding on his next move as he nears the end of the one-year contract extension he signed in 2021.

Di Maria has also been pondering his future at international level.

The veteran said after scoring once and creating another goal in the 3-0 World Cup qualifying win over Venezuela at La Bombonera on Friday that he had likely played for Argentina on home soil for the last time.

He thanked supporters and confirmed he would consider retiring from Argentina duty after the World Cup in Qatar at the end of this year.

"We talked later [that night] – I was very happy and he was very proud," added Miguel.

"It's on his mind and it all depends on him.

"I wish he could continue but from what he said that was his last game in Argentina and then it's Qatar and it's over, he's not going to play for Argentina anymore." 

Miguel added that when the time comes to return home, Di Maria still plans to do so with boyhood club Rosario Central.

"His idea is to come to Central for what remains in his career and finish the race – that's it for now," he said.

"He has already said retiring with Central [is his goal]. Hopefully he can achieve it. That is what he is lacking so far because he left here very young and could not enjoy anything."

South America has not produced a World Cup-winning side for two decades because so many of their players are spread across the globe, Colombia coach Reinaldo Rueda has suggested.

Brazil were the last nation from the continent to win the biggest prize in football, triumphing at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea.

Since then, Italy, Spain, Germany and France have all won the title, with only Argentina coming close from the CONMEBOL confederation when they finished second at Brazil 2014.

Brazil and Argentina will be among the favourites at Qatar 2022 later this year following superb qualification campaigns, alongside a host of familiar European rivals chasing success.

Asked ahead of Colombia's final qualifying clash with Venezuela this week – in which they must at least draw and rely on results elsewhere, too, to make an inter-confederation play-off – Rueda offered an explanation for why CONMEBOL sides have come up short over the past four editions.

"Without doubt, [players playing in Europe] has always been our biggest worry, the problem that we have in South America," Rueda stated. "I have said so many times.

"South America, with the potential and talent that it has, we are approaching now 20 years without a World Cup winner because of that situation.

"Because our biggest talents go to Europe and for some of them, it is difficult, depending on the percentage of those players that are in the national teams, to respond in the same way.

"Then players coming from Europe must attend two or three tournaments. South America has been a victim of this problem in the last 20 years

"That has been a factor that explains why strong national teams haven't been able to consolidate good performances and to win a world title that hasn't happened since 2002."

Lionel Scaloni says it is not the right time to think about Argentina's future without Lionel Messi but to instead enjoy the superstar forward while they still have him.

Seven-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi revealed after already-qualified Argentina's 3-0 win over Venezuela on Friday that he will assess his future after Qatar 2022.

The Paris Saint-Germain star helped Argentina to a first Copa America triumph since 1993 last year and will now have his sights on a first World Cup crown since 1986.

Beyond the tournament at the end of this year, however, Messi admitted he "does not know" what the future holds in terms of his international career.

Scaloni will respect Messi's decision either way and accepts the 34-year-old – who has 81 goals in 159 caps for La Albiceleste – cannot continue forever.

"After playing in a World Cup, everyone has to make an assessment," he said at a pre-match news conference ahead of Tuesday's final qualifier against Ecuador.

"I'm not in the heads of my players to know what they're thinking. In any case, you have to enjoy it. You don't have to think about the future – enjoy their spectacular present.

"It's the rule of life that at some point [retirement] will happen. It's useless thinking about what will happen after the World Cup."

Angel Di Maria is another who appears to be nearing the end of his career with Argentina after posting an emotional tribute to supporters following the win against Venezuela.

The PSG attacker scored one and created another in that victory at La Bombonera – Argentina's 30th consecutive match without defeat.

"I always dreamed of everything I lived on this beautiful night," he said on social media. "It was probably my last match with this shirt in Argentina.

"Being able to say that it was a wonderful night is an understatement. Thank you, thank you and a thousand times thank you."

Scaloni is unaware of any plans Di Maria has to call time on his international career, but like with Messi, he will let the player have the final say.

"I didn't see the post but I understood it as being about this team, I would imagine," Scaloni said. "I spoke with him some time ago. 

"There is an age for everyone. Many trips have passed and many matches, which I imagine is difficult.

"I don't know what's going on in his head. If it was his last home game, it could not have gone any better – it was as though he dreamed it.

"But first let us play these games, then the World Cup, and then we'll see. For now, let's enjoy it."

The CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying format is too tough on the players, with Thiago Silva keen for an alternative that can aid performance to be found. 

In the current system, South American teams play one another twice in a single group for a total of 18 matches. The top four qualify for the World Cup, with the fifth-placed team entering a play-off against a team from Asia. 

Given the scale of the continent and the fact many players ply their trade with European clubs, huge distances need to be traversed and matches can be played at significantly varying altitudes and temperatures in the space of just a few days. 

Brazil centre-back Silva believes a change is needed, with FIFA having reportedly met with some players to discuss what a new format could look like for the first 48-team World Cup in 2026. 

"It's not the 18 games, but the travelling we do. It's a lot of mileage compared to the Europeans, who play close together," Silva was quoted as saying by Globo Esporte. 

"There's a lot of wear and tear, in addition to the climate, which is totally different from what we are used to in Europe. 

"Me and the team had a hard time training in Teresopolis, which is colder than Rio de Janeiro [where Brazil played Chile on Thursday]. This can hinder performance. 

"If we could somehow find a balance in these trips, it would certainly facilitate our stay and our performances. 

"It's definitely unnecessary wear and tear, in my opinion." 

After defeating Chile 4-0 in the heat of Rio on Thursday, Brazil play their final qualifier against Bolivia at over 3,500 metres above sea level on Tuesday.

Angel Di Maria said "thank you, thank you and a thousand times thank you" to the Argentina fans after playing what he expects to be his final international match on home soil.

Di Maria scored one and created another in a 3-0 World Cup qualifying win over Venezuela at La Bombonera on Friday – La Albiceleste's 30th consecutive match without defeat.

Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Lionel Messi was the beneficiary of Di Maria's assist and, with Argentina already sure of their place in Qatar, suggested after the match he would consider his international future following the World Cup.

Di Maria was slightly more definitive in his own post-match comments, as the 34-year-old reflected on "a wonderful night".

"I'm just going to say thank you for the enormous love I have received," he wrote on his Instagram page.

"I always dreamed of everything I lived on this beautiful night. It was probably my last match with this shirt in Argentina, and being able to say that it was a wonderful night is an understatement.

"Thank you, thank you and a thousand times thank you.

"Now to congratulate the whole team for the great match that was played, a perfect match by all. We continue growing and dreaming together. Let's go Argentina!!!"

Di Maria has earned 121 caps and scored 24 goals since his Argentina debut against Paraguay in 2008.

The former Real Madrid and Manchester United winger is in line to go to his fourth World Cup, although he has scored only twice and failed to provide an assist across 13 appearances in the previous three.

In his final major tournament, Di Maria will hope to repeat his Copa America heroics, having scored in July's final against Brazil to secure Argentina their first silverware with Messi in the side.

Friday's assist for Messi was Di Maria's first in qualifying for Qatar – from 13 chances created – yet only the captain and Lautaro Martinez (both seven) can top his three goals in this campaign.

Lionel Messi will reassess his playing future with the national team after the World Cup in Qatar later this year, with retirement not ruled out.

Messi was among the scorers on Friday as already-qualified Argentina eased past Venezuela in World Cup qualifying at La Bombonera in Buenos Aires.

The 34-year-old guided Argentina to a breakthrough Copa America triumph last year, the nation's first since 1993. Argentina have not the World Cup since Diego Maradona led them to glory in 1986, with Messi getting closest in 2014 when they reached the final in Brazil.

Messi, who joined Paris Saint-Germain from Barcelona last August, admitted that his international playing future beyond Qatar was on his mind.

"I don’t know what I will do after the World Cup. I am thinking about what is coming," Messi told reporters after the Venezuela win. "After Qatar I will have to reassess many things."

He added: "I don’t know [about playing on], the truth is I don’t know. I think about what's coming next, only think about facing Ecuador [on Tuesday]. The preparation matches in June and September.

"Let’s hope these go the best way possible. But for sure after the World Cup many things will change."

Messi added that lifting his first major trophy with Argentina last year at the Copa would not have a bearing on his decision.

"It has been a while that I am happy here, since before winning the Copa," he said. "I am thankful for all this they make me feel every time I come to Argentina."

The PSG star's goal against Venezuela extended Argentina's impressive record of never losing in the past 12 years when Messi has scored.

Messi has represented Argentina 159 times, having debuted in 2005, scoring 81 goals.

Argentina remain undefeated in CONMEBOL World Cup qualification, after they defeated Venezuela 3-0 on Friday.

In the Albiceleste's first game at La Bombonera since the passing of Diego Maradona, it was a particularly emotional atmosphere and the already-qualified home side made it 11 wins from 16 qualifiers.

The raucous home support belied the largely lacklustre performance on the pitch, however, with Nicolas Gonzalez's goal giving them breathing room. Angel Di Maria and Lionel Messi netted in the final quarter of an hour to seal the win.

The match's complexion was dominated by Argentine possession which did not exactly translate to many chances of substance.

In the opening 30 minutes, the Albiceleste managed three shots for a cumulative xG of 0.07 despite 71 per cent possession.

Yet the game soon opened up in transition, and Argentina could finally attack space that otherwise wasn't presented. From the ensuing chaos, Alexis Mac Allister quickly won back possession and played in Rodrigo De Paul, who then provided the assist across goal for Gonzalez.

Venezuela had an opportunity to equalise in the 39th minute through Josef Martinez with Argentina goalkeeper Franco Armani scrambling, but he put his close-range shot off target from Salomon Rondon's ball.

Martinez again had an opportunity to equalise in the 54th minute, with a free header from close range but missed.

Argentina were able to effectively kill the game off late in the second half through substitute Angel Di Maria, chipping Wuilker Farinez after De Paul's ball over the top.

Messi then added a third three minutes later in the 82nd minute with a relative mis-hit from Di Maria's assist.

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