Argentina football bosses have slammed world governing body Fifa for slapping five-time Ballon D’Or winner Lionel Messi with a four-game suspension just hours before their World Cup qualifier against Bolivia.
Barcelona forward Messi was also fined 10,000 (£8,100) Swiss Francs for the alleged foul-mouthed tirade at an assistant referee during Argentina’s 1-0 qualification victory over Chile last week.
Messi, who netted the winning goal in that clash, was caught on camera lambasting the official after being adjudged to have committed a foul late in the contest. No further action was taken at the time.
The 29-year-old was forced to sit out their tussle with Bolivia, which Argentina lost 2-0, while he will miss his side’s next three competitive matches and will only return for their final qualifier against Ecuador in October.
“The AFA (Argentinian Football Association) is going to appeal this decision,” said Argentina team secretary Jorge Miadosqui. “The decision doesn’t correspond with the reality based on what was put in the referee’s report.
“Messi is sad like we all are. This could have been handled differently and he would have been able to play today.”
Defeat represented a huge blow to Argentina’s hopes of reaching next summer’s World Cup in Russia, while the loss of Messi hardly helps matters.
In a raft of friendly matches, meanwhile, Republic of Ireland surrendered their 15-game unbeaten run at the Aviva Stadium after losing 1-0 to Iceland.
Bristol City’s former Juventus defender Hordur Magnusson scored the only goal of the game with a 21st-minute free-kick as Ireland failed to recover.