Can you imagine a World Cup without Lionel Messi and Argentina?
Well, it could be a reality after Messi was banned for four games for swearing at a referee during last Thursday’s qualifier against Chile.
After scoring a penalty in the 1-0 victory, Messi allegedly yelled (loosely translated: “f*** off, your ma se p***”) in the direction of the assistant official.
In his first match out, Tuesday night’s qualifier against Bolivia, Argentina lost 2-0 and have dropped to fifth spot in the South American group with two games left.
Only the top four sides qualify, with the fifth team needing to win a playoff against an Oceania nation to book a place at Russia 2018.
The ban was confirmed just six hours before kickoff, with the Argentine Football Association deciding to appeal it.
Team secretary Jorge Miadosqui explains: “The federation will appeal as it should. We feel powerless, surprised. I’m angry, Messi is sad, like us. He could have played, he travelled to play [against Bolivia], he should have played.”
Messi’s club Barca have also condemned Fifa’s decision, saying it’s too harsh.
Meanwhile, Brazil became the first team to qualify for next year’s World Cup.
Neymar, Philippe Coutinho and Marcelo scored in Tuesday night’s 3-0 win over Paraguay to secure top spot in South America.