March 29 – Argentina are having to cope without Lionel Messi as they try to forge a path towards next year’s World Cup.
Messi was handed a four-match ban for using “insulting words” towards an assistant referee during Thursday’s 1-0 win over Chile.
Argentina subsequently lost to Bolivia without him and he will now also miss three of their remaining four games against Brazil, Uruguay and Venezuela later this year, though they plan to appeal against the severity of the ban.
Only the top four teams in South America qualify automatically for the World Cup in Russia next summer, with the team in fifth facing the winners of the Oceania group in a two-legged play-off.
“Bolivia won fair and square,” Argentina coach Edgardo Bauza said. “We are still alive and we want to qualify for the World Cup. We know that this is going to be a battle and we are going to keep fighting.”
In a statement, Barcelona expressed their “surprise and indignation” at the Fifa disciplinary ruling. “The club considers the four-match suspension finally imposed on the Argentine player to be unfair and totally disproportionate,” the club said.
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