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Lionel Messi Handed Four-Match Ban By FIFA Hours Before Crucial Bolivia Qualifier

Argentina have been dire without Lionel Messi in qualification, and now their captain has been handed a four game ban.

The FIFA Disciplinary Committee has handed Lionel Messi a suspension of four games for his altercation with an assistant referee following Argentina’s 1-0 victory over Chile on Thursday. The ban goes into effect immediately, ruling Messi out of Argentina’s match against Bolivia in La Paz later today.

Argentina currently sit third in the CONMEBOL qualifying table, but they’ve been a shambles without Messi, winning only one of seven matches when he’s been unavailable for selection. With Messi in the lineup, they’ve won five out of six, their only loss being away to Brazil in that span.

The ruling means Argentina will be without Messi for today’s tricky encounter against Bolivia, a team that remains formidable at their high-altitude fortress of Estadio Hernando Siles. They’ll then be without their captain when they travel to Uruguay in August, host Venezuela in September and finally Peru in October. 

Messi’s suspension would be over in time for their final qualifier, an away match against Ecuador. Argentina’s form without Messi simply hasn’t been good enough to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, and Edgardo Bauza and the supporting cast are now going to have to find a way without their talisman.

It all starts with getting the three expected points today.