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Argentina woe as Fifa hit 'abusive' Messi with a ban

By Robert Jones

Lionel Messi has been banned for four international matches for abusing an assistant referee, Fifa have announced. The Argentina forward was also fined 10,000 Swiss Francs (£8,100) for "having directed insulting words" at the official during his side's World Cup qualifier with Chile last Thursday.

The Barcelona superstar was caught on camera venting his fury at an assistant who signalled he had committed a foul late on in Argentina's 1-0 win. He was not shown a card.

However, the 29-year-old has been punished and missed last night's meeting with Bolivia. He is also out of Argentina's next three World Cup qualifiers.

Messi will miss the qualifier in 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 lie third in the South American qualifying group, with only the top four guaranteed a place in Russia 2018.

Only three points separate second-placed Uruguay and Chile in sixth, meaning Messi's absences could prove costly for his country.

A statement from Fifa said: "Footballer Lionel Messi has been found guilty of violating Article 57 of the FDC (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."

It added that the suspension was "in line with the Fifa disciplinary committee's previous rulings in similar cases".

Argentina have said they will appeal against the ruling.

Jorge Miadosqui, Argentina team secretary, said: "The AFA (Argentinian Football Association) is going to appeal this decision.

"The decision doesn't correspond with the reality based on what was put in the referee's report."

He added: "Lionel Messi is sad like we all are. This could have been handled differently and he would have been able to play (against Bolivia)."

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