Lionel Messi suspended four games by FIFA for insulting linesman

By Dom Farrell 28 March 2017 192
Lionel Messi suspended four games by FIFA for insulting linesman

Argentina will be without captain Lionel Messi for Tuesday's World Cup qualifier in Bolivia after he was hit with a four-match FIFA suspension for abusing a linesman.

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

The 29-year-old was penalized for a foul and proceeded to wave his arms and shout insults at the referee's assistant Marcelo Van Gasse, with whom he refused to shake hands at the final whistle.

Initially, the incident was not included in referee Sandro Ricci's report but was followed up by FIFA after video footage of Messi's insult emerged and they asked both the officials and the Argentinian Football Association for their observations.

It means Argentina will also be without their talisman for next season's qualifiers against Uruguay, Venezuela and Peru, with him only returning for the final game of the CONMEBOL section against Ecuador. Messi also has been fined 10,000 Swiss francs.

Argentina defender Nicolas Otamendi, midfielders Javier Mascherano and Lucas Biglia and striker Gonzalo Higuain were already suspended for the Bolivia match after collecting bookings versus Chile, while fullbacks Gabriel Mercado and Emmanuel Mas sustained hamstring and knee injuries, respectively, last time out.

Sergio Aguero and Paulo Dybala are in line to replace Messi, with Argentina occupying the third of four automatic qualifying spots in the CONMEBOL section but needing to drastically improve on its record without the Barcelona superstar during the present campaign.

La Albiceleste have won five and lost one with Messi in the side, although that return falls to one victory, four draws and two defeats across two spells when he was sidelined through injury.

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Dom Farrell