Pique labels Messi ban "an outrage"

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The Argentina international was shockingly suspended for four matches after an alleged rant at a linesman, and his club-mate has hit out at the ban

Spain's Gerard Pique has come to the defence of Barcelona team-mate Lionel Messi after the Argentina star received a four-match ban from international football.

Brazil become first country to qualify for World Cup

Messi was controversially suspended just hours before La Albiceleste's World Cup qualifier away to Bolivia on Tuesday as a result of insults allegedly aimed by the forward towards a linesman during last week's win over Chile.

In the absence of their talisman, Edgardo Bauza's team lost 2-0 in La Paz, leaving them fifth in CONMEBOL qualifying and facing the prospect of needing to win an inter-confederation play-off if they are to reach next year's finals in Russia.

Speaking to the media after Spain's 2-0 friendly victory over France in Paris, centre-back Pique took aim at the seemingly draconian punishment.

"I am not the person to discuss a decision of FIFA, but it seems an outrage to me that they have given Messi four matches," Pique said.

Messi has enjoyed a stunning season at club level, scoring 41 goals in 40 games, with Barca currently second in La Liga, two points behind Real Madrid, who have played a game less.