An angry Lionel Messi skipped the Copa America medal ceremony and accused referees of “corruption” following Argentina’s failure to win the tournament and his rare red card in Saturday’s 2-1 third-place playoff victory over Chile.
Minutes before half-time, Messi clashed with Gary Medel after the Chile defender had shepherded the ball out of play near his
goal.The two players where involved in serious range of anger before referee Mauro Diaz de Vivar intervened and immediately flashed red cards for both.
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After the match, Messi, who didn’t collect his third-place medal with his teammates, tore into the officiating at the tournament, claiming his red card was a result of his harsh criticism of officials following the semifinal loss against Brazil in which Argentina had two penalty claims denied.
“I did not go to the podium because we should not be part of this corruption and this lack of respect,” Messi said. “We were
ready for more, they did not let us get to the final. Corruption and referees do not allow people to enjoy football and it ruined
a little bit.”
As a result of the expulsion, Messi faces a suspension for Argentina’s opening World Cup qualifier in March of next year.
Asked if he was concerned about an additional ban for his strong post-match comments, Messi said: “They can do
whatever they want. The truth must be said. I leave calmly and with the head high and proud of this group that gave everything and that was growing through the tournament.
“I hope that this group is respected and that people support them because they have a lot to give as they showed in these games.”
Messi added he fully expected Brazil to become Champions when they face Peru in the final but will be supporting Peru.