Lionel Messi crossed the line last week, and Argentina’s soccer team could pay the ultimate price as a result.
FIFA announced on its website Tuesday it has banned the soccer superstar four games for verbally abusing referees. The penalty stems from his behavior during Argentina’s 1-0 win over Chile last Thursday. He’ll miss all but one of Argentina’s remaining 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers due to the suspension.
“Lionel Messi has been found guilty of violating art. 57 of the FDC for having directed insulting words at an assistant referee,” FIFA said in a statement. “As a result, Messi will be suspended for four official matches and sanctioned with a fine of CHF 10,000.”
Messi will sit out Argentina’s next four 2018 World Cup qualifiers: Tuesday against Bolivia; Aug. 31 against Uruguay; Sept. 4 against Venezuela; Oct. 5 against Peru. He’ll be eligible to play for Argentina on Oct. 9 against Ecuador.
Argentina currently is in third place in the CONMEBOL (South American confederations) standings with five World Cup qualifiers remaining. Four South American teams will automatically qualify for the tournament, and the fifth-place team can reach Russia 2018 via a two-game playoff against a team from Oceania.
Messi is Argentina’s captain and all-time leading scorer. Qualifying for the 2018 World Cup will be more difficult for Argentina without Messi than with him.
Thumbnail photo via Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports Images
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