WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand have been excluded from the final to determine Oceania's representative at next year's Rio Olympics men's soccer tournament after defender Deklan Wynne was deemed an ineligible player, the Oceania Football Confederation has said.
Wynne, who has represented New Zealand at a senior level and during the under-20 World Cup in New Zealand earlier this year, was born in South Africa.
He played in the 2-0 win over Vanuatu in the semi-finals, which advanced New Zealand to the final against Fiji later on Sunday.
Vanuatu, however, lodged a protest with the Oceania Football Confederation Disciplinary Committee who found New Zealand had fielded an ineligible player, and awarded the game 3-0 to Vanuatu instead.
"In accordance with Article 7 of the Regulations Governing the Application of the Statutes, a member of the New Zealand U-23 squad has been deemed ineligible to represent New Zealand," the OFC said in a statement.
Article 7 of the FIFA statutes relate to a player acquiring a new nationality. Under the article either the player or a parent or grandparent needs to be born in the country they wish to represent.
If they are ineligible under the first three criteria, they can represent the country if they have lived there for five years continuously since the age of 18, making the 20-year-old Wynne too young to qualify under that clause.
Such a clause, however, would restrict many age-group players, particularly those wanting to play in the under-23 Olympic tournaments, from representing a country they were not born in or had any family ties to.
Article 6 of the statutes, which applies to players who have nationality to represent more than one country, has the same criteria as Article 7 though the time limit is restricted to two years and has no age requirement.
The OFC did not name Wynne as the player involved, though New Zealand Football later said he had been deemed to be ineligible and they would challenge the decision.
"We strongly refute the ruling regarding the ineligibility of the player in question and we will be challenging this decision," NZF chief executive Andy Martin said in a statement.
The OFC's Olympic qualifying tournament is part of the Pacific Games that are being held in Papua New Guinea.
Neither the OFC or NZF returned calls.
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Frank Pingue