COSTLY CHAT: Lionel Messi's
COSTLY CHAT: Lionel Messi's "insulting words” directed at assistant referee Emerson Augusto de Carvalho has cost the Argentine superstar a four-match suspension. Victor R. Caivano

Argentina loses Messi to suspension and cup qualifier to Bolivia

ARGENTINA's qualification for the 2018 World Cup has suffered a double blow with Lionel Messi suspended for four games and a 2-0 away loss to Bolivia.

Just six hours before the match the five-time world player of the year was outed for four competitive international matches for swearing at a match official.

FIFA said Messi had "directed insulting words at an assistant referee" during Argentina's 1-0 win over Chile on Friday.

Argentina is fifth in the CONMEBOL group with only the top four teams securing direct entry to the World Cup.

Messi will miss qualifers against Uruguay, Venezuela and Peru, returning for Argentina's final game against Ecuador.

Goals from Juan Carlos Arce and Marcelo Martins secured a deserved win for Bolivia, who retain a slender hope of qualification for next year's finals despite remaining second from bottom of the table.