World Cup 2018: Lionel Messi hit with four-match ban

Lionel Messi has been suspended by FIFA for abusing a linesman during Argentina's win over Chile, ruling him out for four games.

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 to Chile last week, when the Barcelona star scored the only goal from the penalty spot.

The 29-year-old was penalised 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.

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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 has also been fined 10,000 Swiss francs and a statement from FIFA read: "Footballer Lionel Messi has been found guilty of violating art. 57 of the FDC [FIFA Disciplinary Code] for having directed insulting words at an assistant referee. 

"As a result, Lionel Messi will be suspended for four official matches and sanctioned with a fine of CHF 10,000. 

"The first match for which the sanction will apply is the next fixture in the preliminary competition of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia between Bolivia and Argentina, which will be played today, 28 March. 

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"The remainder of the sanction will be served over Argentina's subsequent FIFA World Cup qualifying matches.

"This decision is in line with the FIFA Disciplinary Committee's previous rulings in similar cases.

"Both the player and the Argentinian Football Association have been informed of the decision today."

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