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A foul-mouthed verbal tirade has cost the Barcelona star dear with a four-game suspension - but it is likely his nation will suffer even more

Having told a linesman to "F*** off" in Argentina's last outing, Lionel Messi subsequently received an almost identical message from FIFA. 

The Albiceleste captain will pay dearly for his outburst, with an exemplary punishment of a four-match suspension handed down, ruling him out against Bolivia on Tuesday. 

What did Messi say to warrant ban?

And while this is bad news for Messi, it is even more grave for an Argentina team who have become dependent on his incomparable skills.

With Messi in the team, the Albiceleste boast an almost-perfect record in the CONMEBOL World Cup qualifiers having won five games out of six.

A 3-0 defeat against Brazil represents the only time he has faltered this campaign with his nation, but without him the picture is rather different. 

In the seven games he has missed Argentina have won just once, against Colombia in 2015. 

A defeat against Ecuador was followed by draws against Brazil and Paraguay at the start of the qualifying campaign, and three consecutive games without victory means Edgardo Bauza's team have taken just seven points out of the 21 on offer without their talisman, scoring six and conceding eight. 

Argentina PS

As well as the trip to La Paz, Messi could potentially be missing for three other clashes, with the Albiceleste visiting Uruguay in Montevideo before hosting Peru and Venezuela. 

And if an appeal does not prosper and the captain remains on the sidelines, it may pose a massive blow to the nation's chances of making Russia 2018.

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