Lionel Messi gets four-game ban for verbally abusing a linesman during his side’s 1-0 win over Chile on Thursday. Messi discovered his fate only six hours before kick-off in Argentina’s crucial qualifier away to Bolivia in La Paz.
Messi said ‘la concha de tu madre’, which translates directly to ‘f*** off, your mother’s ****’ – a common cursing phrase in Argentina – to linesman Marcelo van Gasse.
FIFA said that Messi ‘directed insulting words at an assistant referee.’
The Barcelona forward will sit out against Bolivia on Tuesday. Messi will also be absent for an away game against Luis Suarez’s Uruguay in August. Consequently, two home matches against Venezuela and Peru in September and October. Additionally, FIFA fined him 10,000 Swiss francs.
What does this mean for Argentina?
Argentina receives a major blow as their spot at next year’s tournament in Russia is far from assured. They went into the match against Chile in fifth position, outside of the automatic qualification spots. And Messi scored the decisive penalty for a vital three points which could revive their campaign. That win took them Argentina to third but the away fixture against Bolivia is a notoriously difficult one due to the high altitude. However, Messi has struggled in the past when playing at around 4,000 meters above sea level. In 2013, he threw up on the pitch during a 1-1 draw.
The top four countries qualify for the World Cup while 5th advance to play the top team in Oceania (likely New Zealand) in a home-and-away series for the final spot. The middle of the CONMEBOL table is packed. Brazil is running away with qualification but 2nd to 6th is separated by three points and within Uruguay, Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador and Chile, all within three points of each other, one of them is guaranteed to not qualify.
Argentina has an easier schedule to end the stretch but will need of others to step up.
The Argentinian federation will appeal the ban to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) .