CONMEBOL have slammed Lionel Messi’s claims of corruption as “unacceptable” and “unfounded” following the Argentina star’s red card.
For only the second time in his career, Messi was shown a red card in what proved to be an ill-tempered third-place play-off match between Argentina and Chile in Sao Paulo on Saturday night.
Paraguayan referee, Mario Diaz de Vivar, was the one who gave the Barcelona star his marching orders. The dismissal came after a bust-up between Messi and Chile captain Gary Medel, who the official also sent-off, in the 37th-minute of the match.
In total, 39 fouls were committed in the play-off and a further seven yellow cards were shown.
Messi, who didn’t react when the referee showed him a red card, later slammed the match officials and called out the CONMEBOL’s corruption.
Now, the South American football governing body has hit back against the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.
“In football sometimes you win and sometimes you lose and accepting the outcome of a match with loyalty and respect is a fundamental pillar of fair play,” read a statement.
“Same goes to the refereeing decisions, that are human and will never be perfect.
“It’s unacceptable that because of incidents proper to the competitions, where 12 nations competed in, all in equal condition, there have been unfounded accusations that misrepresent the truth and put to judgement the integrity of Copa America.
“Said accusations represent a lack of respect for the competition, all the football players involved and the hundreds of professionals of CONMEBOL, an institution that since 2016 has been tirelessly working to professionalise and develop South American football.”
Even without Messi, however, Argentina still managed to scrap a 2-1 victory over Chile following first-half goals from Sergio Aguero and Paulo Dybala.
Attention will now turn to Sunday’s Copa America final between Brazil and Peru, with kick-off set for 22:00 (CET).