SANTIAGO (AFP, REUTERS) - Ecuador kept their place in the Qatar World Cup after world football governing body Fifa on Friday (June 10) closed an inquiry sought by non-qualifying Chile into the eligibility of a key player.
The Fifa disciplinary committee said it had decided to "close the proceedings" against the Ecuador Football Federation (FEF) after Chile disputed the nationality of full-back Byron Castillo.
If Chile had been successful, they would have leapfrogged Ecuador into direct World Cup qualification. The Chilean football federation (FFCh) later said it would appeal against the decision all the way to the Court of Arbitration for Sport if need be.
"The eloquent and substantiated evidence we showed was not enough. Surprisingly the ruling was not in our favour," FFCh president Pablo Milad said in Santiago.
"We are 1-0 down, but there is still the second half."
The FFCh last month lodged a complaint with Fifa against Ecuador over what it claimed was the "use of a fake birth certificate, false declaration of age and false nationality" in the case of Castillo.
It claims to have evidence that the player is actually Colombian.
Under Fifa rules, a player cannot represent a country of which they do not hold nationality.
Castillo, 23, played in both Ecuador's World Cup qualifying matches against Chile - a 2-0 victory in Quito in September last year and a 0-0 draw in November.
Chile finished seventh in the single South American World Cup qualification table, seven points behind Ecuador in the fourth and final automatic berth for Qatar.
Ecuador picked up 14 of their 26 points in matches Castillo played. If they had lost points for the games in which Castillo appeared, they would have missed out on the World Cup.
The other teams who have automatically qualified above Ecuador are Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. Fifth-placed Peru face a play-off against Australia tomorrow.
FEF president Francisco Egas said that Chile's allegations had "hurt us a lot" and did not rule out legal action.
"This is a subject to be analysed by our lawyers," he told reporters.
"But today sporting justice has been done. We celebrate it more because we felt humiliated, trampled by the great media campaign from the Chilean federation."
Ecuador are in Group A with Qatar, the Netherlands and Senegal at the World Cup to be held from Nov 21-Dec 18.