WELLINGTON (AFP) - New Zealand's footballers were thrown out of their Olympic qualifying tournament Sunday for fielding an ineligible player just hours before they were due to contest the final.
Vanuatu lodged a complaint about full-back Deklan Wynne after losing 0-2 to New Zealand in Friday's semi-final at the Pacific Games in Papua New Guinea, which serves as the Oceania men's Olympic qualifying tournament.
"A member of the New Zealand U-23 squad has been deemed ineligible to represent New Zealand," the Oceania Football Confederation Disciplinary Committee said in a statement.
"The Committee has declared that New Zealand has forfeited the match against Vanuatu... and therefore Vanuatu proceed to the final match of the OFC Olympic Qualifying Tournament against Fiji."
New Zealand Football (NZF) confirmed the 20-year-old Wynne was the target of the protest but gave no details.
"We strongly refute the ruling regarding the ineligibility of the player in question and we will be challenging this decision," NZF chief executive Andy Martin said.
Wynne easily meets the Jan 1, 1993 birth deadline to make the Olympics, indicating the eligibility issue could be related to the South African-born player's passport.
He has previously represented the full New Zealand All Whites team as well as the Junior All Whites at the recent Fifa U-20 World Cup.
New Zealand has qualified as the Oceania representative at the Olympics ever since Australia moved to the Asian conference after the 2004 Games in Greece.
At both the Beijing and London Olympics they lost two and drew one game and failed to progress from pool play.