It was looking too good to be true for Montserrat.
They were one of eight teams on six points with one game to go in Gold Cup qualification. There are four places to compete for.
Montserrat had the easier fixture and with four places available to qualify. Five teams had tough games away from home, El Salvador had to play Jamaica at home, and two teams play each other. The odds were in Montserrat’s favour. An Island of 5,000 people had a real chance of going to the 2019 Gold Cup.
Then the world changed. Barbados had been fielding ineligible players. Last week CONCACAF met to consider the matter and issued the following statement:
The Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football today announced its Disciplinary Committee has decided to sanction the Barbados Football Association, by declaring as a forfeit the Concacaf Nations League Qualifying match played against Guyana, on September 6, 2018.
After due examination of the evidence, the Committee determined that the Barbados Football Association infringed the applicable articles of the Tournament Regulations and the Regulations Governing the Application of the FIFA Statutes in relation to the eligibility of players to play for representative teams by fielding ineligible players Hallam Hope and Krystian Pearce. In accordance with articles 55 and 31 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code, the Barbados Football Association is considered to have lost the match against Guyana by a score of 3-0.
This is a big blow to Montserrat’s qualification hopes. Guyana has been awarded a big win in a match they had previously drawn and buts then on six points also.
This moves Montserrat down to 15th and means that a Belize loss in Guyana will now just make Guyana virtually impossible to catch. Draws are rare in this tournament, so with now four teams to play each other it looks likely that Montserrat now need three of the following four teams to fail to win: St Kitts, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and French Guiana.
It’s no longer looking good as it was and Monserrat are clearly now the outsiders. They will be very disappointed if they miss out because of a mistake made by someone else. But as they say in the Rocky films (at least one of them anyway) – It ain’t over till it’s over.
They could still make it. Stranger things have happened.