Messi banned for four international matches

Messi speaks with the officials after the game.PHOTO/Sky Sports

ARGENTINA, March 28 -The Argentine Football Association says it intends to appeal after Lionel Messi was banned for four international matches by FIFA for verbally abusing an assistant referee against Chile.

Television pictures showed Messi reacting angrily late in Thursday’s World Cup Qualifier when the assistant flagged him for a foul.

The 29-year-old, who scored the only goal in a 1-0 win for the hosts, was seen waving his arms and shouting insults at the official.

FIFA intervened when the incident was not initially reported by the Brazilian referee after the crucial match in Buenos Aires.

The Barcelona forward has now been punished, with his international suspension starting on Tuesday in Bolivia.

A statement from FIFA said: “Footballer Lionel Messi has been found guilty of violating article 57 of the FIFA disciplinary code for having directed insulting words at an assistant referee.

“As a result, Lionel Messi will be suspended for four official matches and sanctioned with a fine of CHF 10,000 (£8,100).”

It added that the suspension was “in line with the FIFA disciplinary committee’s previous rulings in similar cases”.

Lionel Messi speaks with the assistant referee during the match against Chile.PHOTO/Sky Sports

Argentina team secretary Jorge Miadosqui immediately confirmed that the AFA would appeal the ban, which came just hours ahead of the World Cup qualifier with Bolivia.

“The federation will appeal as it should,” he said. “We feel powerless, surprised. I’m angry, Messi is sad, like us. He could have played, he travelled to play [against Bolivia], he should have played.”

Messi is also set to miss the qualifiers away to Uruguay in August, at home to Venezuela the following month and at home to Peru in October, meaning he will only be able to return for Argentina’s final qualifying match away to Ecuador.

Argentina are third in the South American qualifying group, with only the top four guaranteed a place in Russia 2018 and only three points separating second-placed Uruguay and Chile in sixth.

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-Sky Sports-