ZURICH — FIFA has dealt a four-match ban to Lionel Messi after ruling that the Argentina forward verbally abused a match official in a World Cup qualifying game against Chile.
Messi was dealt the ban and a fine by FIFA’s disciplinary panel. He will miss four of the Albiceleste‘s remaining five World Cup qualifiers, including the match against Bolivia on Tuesday. He can return for Argentina’s final qualifier, away to Ecuador on Oct. 10.
Messi and the Argentina federation can appeal against the ban to FIFA.
FIFA intervened when the incident was not initially reported by the Brazilian referee after Argentina beat Chile 1-0 in Buenos Aires on Thursday.
It was judged a red-card offense for Messi, who scored the only goal from a first-half penalty.
Television pictures showed Messi reacting angrily late in the game when an assistant referee flagged him for fouling an opponent. He waved his arms and shouted profane insults at the assistant.
After the game, Messi refused to shake hands with assistant referee Emerson Carvalho, who had annoyed him.
Argentina newspaper Ole published documents from the FIFA inquiry, which quote head match referee Sandro Ricci as saying that he wasn’t aware that Messi insulted any official.
“I did not hear any offensive language from Messi or anyone else towards myself, besides the normal players’ complains (specially raising their hands) [sic] during the match. If I had heard any offensive word, I would have acted in according the rules of the game”.
Lionel Messi suspendido por cuatro partidos: https://t.co/VhlmJWH84N
– FIFA Media (@fifamedia) March 28, 2017
Argentina are set to play Bolivia in La Paz’s altitude minus Gonzalo Higuain, Javier Mascherano, Lucas Biglia and Nicolas Otamendi, all of whom are suspended after collecting yellow cards.
Full-backs Gabriel Mercado and Emmanuel Mas are both injured and will sit out.
Argentina coach Edgardo Bauza said on Monday that he will leave Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero on the bench despite making the seven squad changes.
Argentina are third in CONMEBOL qualifying. Messi will also miss Argentina’s game at Uruguay on Aug. 31, and home games against Venezuela on Sept. 5 and Peru on Oct. 5.
Argentina have struggled throughout most of their World Cup qualifying campaign, but had won their last two matches, with Messi scoring in both, to improve their position to third place.
Four South American teams qualify directly. Messi was also fined 10,000 Swiss francs ($10,160).
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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FIFA hands Lionel Messi four-match ban for insults in WCQ vs. Chile – ESPN FC