Argentina captain Lionel Messi has protested his innocence after being handed a four-match ban for abusing an official, insisting his insults were aimed "to the air".
The Barcelona star scored the only goal of the game in a World Cup qualifying win against Chile, but his second-half clash with an assistant led to a ban in the hours before a second crucial clash with Bolivia.
"My sayings were never addressed to the assistant, but they were said to the air," he said in a statement reported by La Nacion .
Argentina have already announced an intention to appeal the ban, which would see Messi also absent for qualifying matches against Uruguay, Venezuela and Peru if unchanged.
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