Messi banned for 4 Argentina World Cup qualifiers

BUENOS AIRES: Argentina striker Lionel Messi was suspended by Fifa on Tuesday for four World Cup qualifiers and fined 10,000 Swiss francs (10,160 dollars) for insulting a match official.
The Barcelona star and Argentina captain was investigated by football’s ruling body for insulting a match official in Thursday’s 1-0 victory over Chile in a World Cup qualifier. The ban rules him out of Argentina’s World Cup qualifier against Bolivia later Tuesday and three more qualifiers.
Messi was found guilty by Fifa’s disciplinary committee of insulting the Brazilian linesman in an incident not in the referee’s original match report, but added on Monday.
Following television coverage of the incident, Fifa ruled a red card would have been justified. A Fifa statement said Messi was found guilty of “having directed insulting words at an assistant referee.”
The four-match ban “is in line with the Fifa Disciplinary Committee’s previous rulings in similar cases,” it added.
The ban is a blow to Argentina in a decisive phase of the South American World Cup qualifiers. Following Bolivia, Messi will miss the games against Uruguay, Venezuela and Peru. He will be available again only for the last qualifying game, against Ecuador in Quito.
Currently, the Albiceleste are third with 22 points, but the table is very tight from second to seventh positions. Only the first four qualify for the 2018 finals in Russia directly, while the fifth goes into a play-off with the Oceania qualifiers. — DPA