Bolivia hand Messi-less Argentina 2-0 defeat; Colombia beat Ecuador

The decision was announced less than six hours before kickoff of the match in La Paz and means that the five-times world player of the year will play in only one of Argentina's remaining five World Cup qualifiers.

Messi was angered late in the game when an assistant referee, Emerson Carvalho flagged him for fouling an opponent.

Brazil became the first team to qualify for the World Cup on Tuesday after beating Paraguay to clinch an eighth consecutive victory as Argentina's campaign stumbled after the shock suspension of Lionel Messi.

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.

With Colombia and Chile both winning, Argentina slipped to fifth in the South American qualification race - with only the top four teams earning an automatic ticket to Russian Federation next summer.

The punishment relates to Messi's actions during the closing stages of Argentina's win at home to Chile, when the Barca star scored the only goal from the penalty spot.

Messi's suspension was tied to an insult apparently directed at a match official during a crucial 1-0 win over Chile last week.

The 29-year-old FC Barcelona player was also fined 10,000 Swiss francs ($10,160) by FIFA's disciplinary panel.

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". "We know that it will be a fight and we will keep fighting". "But we're left angry and sad because (Messi) will not be with the team".

The defeat leaves Argentina languishing just outside the automatic qualifying places following results elsewhere Tuesday.

"The matches Messi is disqualified for are all World Cup qualifying matches".

The suspension could nearly be a blessing for Messi's Barcelona career: He will now get the summer off, and if his absence means Argentina misses the 2018 World Cup, he will get next summer off, too.

  • Leroy Wright