After Canada and Costa Rica played out a hard-fought 1-1 draw in one Group A game at the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup, Honduras are about to be handed an easy win in the other. French Guiana, the fourth team in the group, named ineligible player Florent Malouda in their starting lineup, thus forfeiting the match and gifting Honduras a 3-0 victory.
Malouda, who played for French Guiana at the Caribbean Cup, is cap-tied to France. Therefore, by FIFA roster rules he is ineligible to play in the Gold Cup, regardless of the fact that French Guiana is not an official FIFA member. Not only is he playing tonight against Honduras, he will be wearing the captain’s armband.
French Guiana chose not to play Malouda against Canada in their 4-2 opening-game loss, but appear to have had a change of heart prior to the Honduras match. Honduras being gifted three free goals complicates the standings in Group A, where goal difference could end up being a difference maker in deciding who finishes first, second and third.
Another one of Malouda. Gave a thumbs up heading out of locker room. pic.twitter.com/SR68W9q7Pj— Arch Bell (@ArchBell) July 12, 2017
It isn’t only Canada and Costa Rica that this matters to, however. Should Honduras finish third in the group, their statistics will be put head-to-head against the third-place finishers from the other two groups. A 3-0 default victory goes a long way towards giving them an edge over those other teams.
That makes this whole situation quite embarrassing for CONCACAF, as it truly ruins the integrity of this group. Why French Guiana was allowed to bring Malouda in the first place is unknown. Surely, CONCACAF tried to stop them from playing Malouda once they ruled him ineligible, but the Group A underdogs don’t seem to care much for official results.
Now that this has taken place, CONCACAF needs to come down heavy. Just disqualifying French Guiana from a game or two isn’t enough; a stunt like this calls for a temporary ban from CONCACAF competitions going forward. Potentially, they should be disallowed from returning to the Gold Cup altogether.
The fairest way to deal with this might be to just award all three of French Guiana’s group games as 3-0 default victories, thus evening the playing field. But even that comes with its complications, such as the aforementioned third-place finish scenario.
From a Canadian men’s national team perspective, it would also mean wiping from the record books a pair of goals from Alphonso Davies, not to mention Scott Arfield and Dejan Jakovic’s first goals for Canada. That would be a tough pill to swallow for those players who worked hard for those goals.
In that regard, CONCACAF really can’t win; no matter how it deals with this situation, it looks bad on them and the tournament. It certainly brings into question whether or not non-FIFA teams should be allowed to play at the Gold Cup if they are going to leave it prone to antics like this.
It really is too bad for teams like Martinique and Guadaloupe, who have put together decent runs at the tournament in the past. But the fact that CONCACAF teams get no FIFA points for playing against them combined with the potential for a situation like Malouda’s makes their continued presence at future tournaments questionable at best.