Ecuador keep 2022 World Cup spot but get 2026 qualifying point deduction

Ecuador will play at this year's World Cup in Qatar after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on Tuesday said Byron Castillo, whom Chile claimed was ineligible to play during the qualifiers, was deemed an Ecuadorean national.

Ecuador will, however, get a three-point deduction at the start of the qualifying campaign for the 2026 World Cup and must also pay a fine of 100,000 Swiss Francs ($101,605.36) for the "use of a document containing false information," CAS said.

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"Since the nationality of a player with a national association is determined by national laws (subject to time limits in case of a change of sporting nationality, which was not the case here), Byron Castillo was eligible to play ... in the preliminary round of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022," CAS said in a statement.

CAS, sport's highest court, added that the decision was based on the fact that the Ecuadorean authorities acknowledged Castillo as an Ecuadorean national.

Ecuador have been drawn in Group A alongside Qatar, Senegal and the Netherlands at the finals and the South American team will play the hosts in the opening match of the tournament when the World Cup kicks off on Nov. 20.

In September, FIFA had dismissed Chile's appeal following their original complaint that Castillo was born in Tumaco, Colombia, in 1995 and not in the Ecuadorean city of General Villamil Playas in 1998, as stated on his official documents.

However, CAS said the Ecuadorean Football Federation (FEF) violated Article 21 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code for the use of a document containing false information.

"While the player's Ecuadorean passport was indeed authentic, some information provided therein was false," CAS added.

"In particular, the panel was comfortably satisfied that the player's date and place of birth were incorrect since the player was actually born in Tumaco, Colombia, on 25 June 1995.

"The panel deemed it necessary to hold the FEF liable for an act of falsification... even if the FEF was not the author of the falsified document but only the user."

Ecuador have always denied that the player was ineligible. The FEF said they used the correct eligibility criteria to select Castillo and that they were analysing the next steps as they did not agree with the sanction imposed.

Castillo played in eight of Ecuador's qualifying games -- including twice against Chile -- for the World Cup as they finished fourth to secure a place at the finals.

Ecuador have always denied that the player was ineligible.

Peru finished fifth in South American qualifying, missing out on the last automatic spot for Qatar, while Chile finished seventh.

Regarding the points deduction imposed on Ecuador in the qualifying campaign for the 2026 World Cup, CAS said:

"The panel determined that the three-point deduction should not be imposed in the present preliminary competition to the FIFA World Cup, but rather in the next edition, considering that the player was eligible to play in the preliminary competition to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022."

Also on Tuesday, Ecuador coach Gustavo Alfaro criticised the decision to change the date of the World Cup's opening match between his side and hosts Qatar for giving him one less day to prepare for the tournament.

The World Cup was scheduled to get underway on Monday, Nov. 21, but organisers decided in August it would be better for the hosts to kick off the tournament and therefore the match between Ecuador and Qatar was moved forward to Sunday.

"I have one day less of preparation," Alfaro told a news conference. "We were overtaken. We were not consulted if there was any problem in bringing forward the match from the 21st to the 20th."

The Argentine manager questioned the amount of time he had to work with his squad compared to other teams at the World Cup as well as Qatar, whose players have been made available to the national team for five months as their championship is suspended.

"Now, I don't want an advantage, but I do want the same rights as everyone else. The others have seven days and I have six. Why do I have six? Why didn't they give me a day before [to work with the squad]?" Alfaro added.