Football

Messi slams 'Brazil fix' after red card

Argentina captain livid after getting sent off along with Chile's Medel in Copa third-place play-off

COPA AMERICA
THIRD-PLACE PLAY-OFF
ARGENTINA CHILE
2 1
(Sergio Aguero 12, Paulo Dybala 22) (Arturo Vidal 59-pen)

Lionel Messi was sent off before half-time and then angrily hit out at “corrupt” tournament organisers after Argentina beat Chile 2-1 to win a bad-tempered third-place play-off at the Copa America on Sunday morning (July 7, Singapore time).

The match was 34 minutes old when Chilean captain Gary Medel shepherded out a ball near his own goal. Messi challenged him from behind and Medel reacted angrily, pushing the Argentine and raising his hands.

The Paraguayan referee showed Medel a red card and, even though Messi did not react, he too was sent off, prompting boos in Sao Paulo’s Corinthians arena.

Television replays of the incident suggested Messi had done little wrong.

“I think the dismissal was over what I said. My words had repercussions, but you must always be sincere,” he said after the victory over Chile.

“Before the match started, he (the referee) said he liked to talk and hoped that we’d have a calm match, but at the first incident, he sent me off.”

Reports said the Barcelona forward did not attend the ceremony to receive his third-place medal and he later hit out at the South American Football Confederation (Conmebol).

“We don’t have to be part of this corruption,” Messi said. “The lack of respect that they have showed us throughout this tournament.

“Sadly, the corruption, the referees, they don’t allow people to enjoy football, they ruined it a bit.

“I think the cup is fixed for Brazil,” Messi added. “I hope that the VAR and the referees have nothing to do in this final and that Peru can compete because they have the team to do so although I think it’s difficult.”

His comments came four days after Argentina were beaten 2-0 by arch-rivals Brazil in a semi-final that was marked by a number of contentious refereeing decisions.

Argentina were furious that the VAR was not consulted for two possible penalty decision, with the Argentine Football Association president writing an angry letter to Conmebol to express his disgust.

Messi’s frustration was evident in the mixed zone after what was only the second red card of his career.

“You saw what happened,” he told reporters. “A yellow would have ended it for both of us. The important thing is that with 10, the team finished well and won.”

The referee also showed six yellow cards in a match that was disrupted by 37 fouls.

Sergio Aguero put Argentina 1-0 ahead in 12 minutes and Paulo Dybala made it two 10 minutes later with a nice finish after Giovani Lo Celso put him through on goal.

Arturo Vidal pulled one back for Chile from the penalty spot 14 minutes into the second half.

Hosts Brazil face Peru in the final in Rio de Janeiro on Monday morning (Singapore time).
REUTERS, AFP

Lionel messiARGENTINACopa AmericaCHILE