Lionel Messi has been handed a four-match international suspension by FIFA after the Argentina captain was found guilty of abusing a referee verbally in a World Cup qualifying match against Chile last week.
The suspension was confirmed just five hours before Argentina’s World Cup qualifier against Bolivia yesterday, a match the La Albiceleste lost 2-0.
FIFA, the world football governing body, said on Tuesday that Messi was banned for “directing insulting words at an assistant referee” during Argentina’s 1-0 win over Chile on Friday.
FIFA said after the game in La Paz, the “remainder of the sanction will be served over Argentina’s subsequent World Cup qualifying matches”.
Messi, who scored the only goal in the qualifier, was angered when he was flagged for a foul, waving and shouting at the assistant in response.
The 29-year-old FC Barcelona player was also fined 10,000 Swiss francs ($10,160) by FIFA’s disciplinary panel.
Argentina is third in South American qualifying, with the top four teams advancing to next summer’s finals in Russia.
There are five matches still to play in the qualifiers.