A day before ending Cape Verde’s World Cup hopes by sanctioning the tiny nation for fielding an ineligible player, FIFA did not do the same to New Zealand. The Disciplinary Committee dismissed charges against the Oceania World Cup qualification champion, which finished with a perfect 6-0 record in the final round.
New Zealand will meet the fourth-placed team in CONCACAF at the end of the North American confederation’s tournament in a two-legged playoff, with the winner qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. The island nation has qualified for two World Cups, in 1982 and 2010.
FIFA opened disciplinary proceedings against New Zealand in March, after allegations that Australian-born center back Andrew Durante was not eligible to represent his adopted nation. Durante received citizenship on March 5, and he played his first matches for the All-Whites against the Solomon Islands on March 26.
New Zealand Football high performance director Fred de Jong said in a federation statement:
We were confident that Andrew met all of the necessary requirements to be eligible to play for New Zealand but it was important we went through the process to ensure his status was unable to be questioned. Andrew can now concentrate on his career with the All Whites and, if selected, helping them to reach the FIFA 2014 World Cup Brazil. It also enables New Zealand Football to plan the upcoming campaign with certainty.
The 31-year-old Wellington Phoenix captain planned on making his debut on March 22 against New Caledonia, but he had not received FIFA approval yet. His paperwork went through in the four days between games, and FIFA’s investigation into his eligibility confirmed its legitimacy.