Lionel Messi has put South American football federation COMNEBOL on blast for the second time this week after his bizarre red card in Argentina’s third place play-off game against Chile.
Messi was sent off for just the third time in his career after an altercation with Chile captain Gary Medel. Messi and Medel engaged in a relatively tame pushing and shoving match with the footage showing the Chilean as the aggressor in which both men were given their marching orders by referee Mario Diaz. The incident came after just 37 minutes of the game with Argentina leading 2-0.
Argentina would continue to hold onto their lead despite Arturo Vidal’s 59th-minute penalty giving Chile some hope, but it was Messi’s post-match comments that have taken centre-stage.
In his interview with South American media, Messi said: “We do not have to be part of this corruption and the lack of respect that was shown throughout this Tournament.”
Messi: “Nosotros no tenemos que ser parte de esta corrupción y de esta falta de respeto que se nos hizo durante toda esta Copa”. pic.twitter.com/BjHEN17iMu
— TyC Sports (@TyCSports) 6 July 2019
Messi was also quoted as predicting the winner of the competition already, saying: “Brazil will be Champions, there is no doubt, the Tournament is rigged for Brazil, Peru have the team to dream, but I don’t know if they [COMNEBOL] will let them”, according to tweets from UK-based Directvsports reporter Luis Fernando Restrepo.
?Lionel Messi: “¿Brasil campeón? Yo creo que no hay duda, yo creo que la copa está armada para Brasil, Perú tiene equipo para soñar, pero no sé si lo van a dejar”.
— Luis Fdo Restrepo (@luisferpo) 6 July 2019
Messi’s comments are a continuation of his words after the Semi-Final defeat to Brazil, where Argentina were denied two potential penalties, one occurring seconds before Brazil would score the opener, with neither being checked by VAR and Messi condemning the officiating as “bullsh*t“.
In light of yesterday’s events Messi decided to bypass the option to lead Argentina out to collect their third-placed medals, but the remainder of the squad continued to accept theirs.
On whether or not the double-dismissal was justified, both Messi and Medel have disagreed with referee Diaz’s interpretation of the incident. Messi said that he thought a yellow card would have sufficed and alluded to a red being brandished instead, as a potential result of his aforementioned comments after the Semi-Final.
#CopaAmerica Lionel Messi ?: “Con una amarilla se hubiese terminado para los dos, pero bueno, quizás lo que dije la vez pasada pasó facturas. Lo importante es que el equipo terminó bien la Copa”.
— Selección Argentina ?? (@Argentina) 6 July 2019
The other man involved, Medel, thought a red was also harsh for both parties and didn’t even expect to receive a card at all. Medel said: “I agree with Messi, I didn’t even think we’d get a yellow for it. There were a few shoves but that was it, the referee could’ve handled that a lot better”.
Medel contra el árbitro y a favor de Messi. Ah, y otro recado a Conmebol. pic.twitter.com/8rnXXIu5N1
— Javier Saul (@dr_javi) 6 July 2019
Both COMNEBOL and referee Mario Diaz have defended their actions this tournament. COMNEBOL tweeted an image containing a statement which seemed to target Messi with remarks such as “a fundamental pillar of fair play is to accept results with loyalty and respect” and “These accusations represent a lack of respect towards the competency, towards every player in the tournament and the hundreds of employees of CONMEBOL, an institution that has been working tirelessly for transparency, professionalism, and development of South American football since 2016”.
Comunicado Oficial pic.twitter.com/x6DE1emoSQ
— CONMEBOL.com (@CONMEBOL) 7 July 2019
Mario Diaz defended his decision to send off two players and, according to Mundo Deportivo, was left with an “absence of options”. He said that he sent Messi off for: “confrontation with the adversary in an incident that happened when the ball was no longer in play, giving a strong blow with the shoulder to the adversary”. His reason for sending off Medel was more understandable, explaining: “Medel brutally struck with his chest and arm to the opponent and had to be contained by his teammates.”