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CONCACAF suspends Florent Malouda from Gold Cup and hands Honduras forfeit win over French Guiana

CONCACAF's Disciplinary Committee has, unsurprisingly, supported CONCACAF's ruling that Florent Malouda is not eligible to represent French Guiana at Gold Cup.

Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Close to 3:00 am, Eastern, on Friday, July 14, CONCACAF's Gold Cup Disciplinary Committee issued its ruling on the matter of Florent Malouda - deemed an ineligible player by the confederation - playing for French Guiana against Honduras on July 11. The Committee rule in favor of CONCACAF's assertion that Malouda is ineligible to play in Gold Cup and announced a number of disciplinary actions. Specifically, the French Guiana Football League (the governing body of the French Guiana national team) has been fined, the 0-0 result of the game with Honduras is scratched and Los Catrachos are awarded a 3-0 win by forfeit, and Malouda is suspended for "two official matches". For good measure, and to perhaps ensure that French Guiana does not simply name Malouda to its starting lineup again, the player will also serve a two-match stadium ban.

French Guiana disputed the pretext of CONCACAF's original claim that Malouda wasn't eligible for the tournament. The confederation had decided to use FIFA rules regarding player-eligibility for national team selection for Gold Cup 2017, and considers Malouda cap-tied to France (he won 80 caps for France in his career). French Guiana's riposte is that it is not a FIFA member, therefore "FIFA rules" on this matter do not apply - or rather, the rules that apply are the convention that has been supported by FIFA in the past, which is that players can appear for teams like French Guiana (which is part of France) in non-FIFA tournaments under selection criteria acceptable to the relevant governing body of the FIFA member the player represented previously.

It is not yet clear whether French Guiana (and Malouda) will accept the decision without further comment or appeal. Given the team's conviction that it had a strong case to support Malouda's selection to the squad and appearance at the tournament, one would expect a response to the Disciplinary Committee's announcement.

But French Guiana plays Costa Rica at 7:30 pm, Eastern, on July 14. CONCACAF's decision - which excludes Malouda from even being in the stadium for the match - was clearly crafted to at least settle this matter for the game to be played on July 14. Whether French Guiana chooses to contest a decision that affects its selection policies for future tournaments (and those of other non-FIFA teams in CONCACAF such as Guadeloupe and Martinique), there likely isn't time for any protest to see the Disciplinary Committee's ruling reversed or suspended. So Malouda is not expected to appear against Costa Rica.

The ruling is of greatest benefit to Honduras, which had managed one point and zero goals from its two group stage games at the Gold Cup so far. Now the team has three points and three goals to its name, and a much improved chance of qualifying for the quarterfinals, either as one of the top-two teams in Group A or one of the two best third-placed teams emerging from the group stage.

This adjustment to Honduras' points total gives it a much more secure place in the conversation about which teams will advance to the quarterfinals, and it could now move on to the knockout rounds even if it loses to Canada in its final game of the group stage. And if Honduras is perceived to have qualified for the quarterfinals at the expense of another team for no better reason than it benefited from a forfeit win - perhaps we'll see another side join French Guiana's inevitable protest of CONCACAF's management of this issue.