LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Sudan lost top spot in its 2014 World Cup qualifying group on Monday after sport's highest court stripped the country of its victory against Zambia for fielding an ineligible player.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport rejected the Sudanese Football Association's appeal against a FIFA ruling to award Zambia a 3-0 win by default.
CAS said Sudanese officials claimed they were not properly informed that Saif Ali was suspended, yet "couldn't not be aware of the fact that" the player was ineligible for the match last June.
Ali scored in Sudan's 2-0 win in Khartoum, four months after being sent off when the same teams played an African Cup of Nations quarterfinal. Zambia's complaint provoked a FIFA investigation.
"The CAS panel in charge of this case rejected the arguments of the SFA after noting that the secretariat of the Confederation of African Football had indeed informed the SFA that (Ali) would be suspended during the next official match of the national team," the court said. "In case of doubt, it should have verified the player's eligibility with the competent FIFA and/or CAF authorities."
The court's ruling puts Zambia top of the four-team group with six points from two matches, three ahead of Ghana. Sudan falls to third place with one point, and last-place Lesotho also has one point.
Qualifiers resume on March 22 when Sudan plays away to Ghana and Lesotho hosts Zambia.
The winners of 10 African qualifying groups advance to a final round in October and November. The five winners of home-and-away playoffs go to the World Cup next year in Brazil.