Brazil nearly through to World Cup 2018

In this March 23, 2017 photo made available Tuesday, March 28, 2017, Argentina's Lionel Messi, right, argues with assistant referee Emerson Augusto de Carvalho during a 2018 Russia World Cup qualifying soccer match between Argentina and Chile at the Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

He said in post-match quotes reported on espn.com: "When the rumour began to settle, the concern began to take on more volume".

Messi's suspension left Argentina coach Edgardo Bauza forced to make a hasty reshuffle to his starting line-up, bringing in Atletico Madrid's Angel Correa in attack while leaving Manchester City's Sergio Aguero on the bench.

"We did not have time to work with someone else".

"This decision is in line with the FIFA Disciplinary Committee's previous rulings in similar cases", the world soccer body said.

He remains free to play for his Spanish La Liga club.

"Finally, FC Barcelona wishes to reiterate its support for Leo Messi, an exemplary athlete, for his behaviour on and off the pitch".

"We are alive and we want to qualify for the World Cup".

The win at Sao Paulo's Arena Corinthians means Brazil are all but guaranteed to extend their record of never failing to qualify for the World Cup by securing their place in Russian Federation.

Barcelona superstar Neymar scored a dazzling solo goal after Liverpool forward Philippe Coutinho had opened the scoring for Brazil as the five-time world champions notched an eighth straight qualifying victory.

Messi has already missed seven of Argentina's 13 World Cup qualifying matches this cycle due to injury. Although sixth-place Ecuador is only two points behind in the standings, fourth-place Chile and third-place Uruguay are just one point above.

Brazil coach Tite was conducting his post-match press conference when news filtered through that Uruguay had lost 2-1 to Peru, ensuring Brazil became the first side to book their place for Russian Federation 2018.

"When I look at my family - the players - and when we talk to the fans and see how happy they are, that's when you think 'I'm part of something very special", Tite said after Brazil's qualification was confirmed.

It was Brazil's eighth consecutive win in qualifying and, combined with Peru's 2-1win over Uruguay in a later game, ensured they would finish the 10-nation group in the top four, guaranteeing them a berth at the Russian Federation finals.

  • Joanne Flowers