If you’re a rugby fan and you feel like Russia doesn’t deserve to be in the World Cup in 2019, you may or may not have a point as they were essentially handed a spot in the European qualifying. In a strange turn of events, Russia was practically given a spot to qualify as Spain, Romania, and Belgium all lost points due to ineligible players being used. Spain lost 40 points, while Romania and Belgium each lost 30. But the story is even crazier than that as it didn’t start out as an investigation over player-eligibility.
In a World Cup Qualifying match between Spain and Belgium, the referee was a Romanian named Vlad Iordachescu, which is a bad idea in itself as he comes from another country that was also trying to qualify (it probably should have been someone from Ireland or even France for that matter). Iordachescu made some suspicious calls in the game that seemed to favor Belgium in which would then help Romania qualify for the World Cup. The Spanish players became furious and even confronted him, but alas to no avail. Iordachescu was even escorted out by security as the Spanish players got extra contentious with him.
After much discussion it would to be that the match was to be replayed, but then something came up that made the whole ordeal go from crazy to absolute bonkers. There were claims that some players on those sides were actually ineligible which led to an investigation. It was revealed that Spain had used ineligible players in eight qualifying matches and both Romania and Belgium did so in six contests during the entire qualification process which lasts two years. Because of that, all sides were subsequently punished as they had five points deducted per offense. If you do the math, even though I already mentioned how much before, Spain lost 40 points, while Romania and Belgium each lost 30 and, according to an ESPN article, they were also handed fines of £25,000, £125,000 and £100,000 respectively and suspended for five years. Russia was in third place at the time as they were nine points out of the top spot and it had looked like they were not going to qualify, but once that whole ordeal happened Russia saw themselves on top of the table and were the winners of the automatic European spot in the World Cup. Russia wasn’t the only nation that benefitted from it too as Germany, who only won two of the eight qualification games, saw themselves move on to play a playoff game against Portugal (which they subsequently won) and whomever won that match would get a chance to take on Samoa for the final spot in Pool A in the World Cup. There were some appeals made, but they were denied as they made Russia the winner.
I have never seen such a crazy turn of events especially when it involved a side that was getting a benefit of the doubt be outed for breaking the rules and another side getting screwed who also was breaking the rules. Plus it even involved a side that had no chance of advancing and were hoping to break the hearts of another who was also breaking the rules. You just can’t make this up. It was very stupid on all three of those nation’s part as they should have been more careful who they fielded out there, but also at the same time it was very comical how everything transpired. Had none of them not broken the rules nor had the Romanian referee been refereeing the match, who knows what would have happened, but here we are as they all got what was deserved. Maybe they will learn from this.