Lionel Messi Suspended For Four Games After Ranting At Official

Barcelona have expressed their "surprise and indignation" at FIFA's decision to ban Lionel Messi for four worldwide matches after insulting an official.

He will miss the match against Bolivia on Tuesday night three other matches of Argentina's World Cup qualifiers.

There are fears Argentina could miss the World Cup in Russian Federation where their biggest rivals, Brazil, became the first team to qualify on Tuesday night.

Argentina's Lionel Messi argues with first assistant referee Emerson Carvalho during Thursday's game against Chile.

The top four teams in South American qualifying advance to next summer's tournament, while the team that finishes fifth goes into a playoff.

With the ban, Messi will miss Argentina's game against Uruguay away on 31 August, Venezuela at home on 5 September and Peru at home on 5 October.

Earlier in the day, Barcelona released a statement expressing their "surprise and indignation" at the sanction.

"I vehemently deny having offended assistant referee 1 during the game against Chile, and more so do not believe that my conduct falls under article 57 of FIFA's disciplinary code", he wrote.

The ban began immediately: Messi did not play ins Tuesday's World Cup qualifier against Bolivia.

Argentina have said they will appeal Messi's ban, with team secretary Jorge Miadosqui saying: "The decision doesn't correspond with the reality based on what was put in the referee's report". Bolivia, as Argentine coach Edgardo Bauza predicted, deployed a high press throughout the first half in hopes of exhausting a visiting squad unused to the altitude of 3,600 meters (11,800 feet).

Barca said Messi was an "exemplary sportsman". "This could have been handled differently and he would have been able to play today".

He did award a controversial penalty to Argentina, however, after adjudging Angel di Maria to have been pushed in the area, and Messi duly scored the spot kick. The top four finishers qualify automatically for next year's finals in Russian Federation.

  • Julie Sanders