Argentina will appeal the four-match ban handed to Lionel Messi by FIFA, national team secretary Jorge Miadosqui has confirmed.
The punishment, which rules Messi out of competitive action for his country until the final World Cup qualifier against Ecuador next season, was announced just hours before Argentina take on Bolivia in La Paz on Tuesday.
“We are surprised by the decision that has been taken,” Miadosqui said.
“We are very angry because of the way it was handled hours before playing.
“We are going to appeal the FIFA sanction. There are previous [examples]to believe the punishment can be decreased.
“Messi is sad, as we all are. We do not agree with the way in which this was handled.”
Messi’s sanction relates to his actions in the closing stages of Argentina’s World Cup qualifying win over Chile in Buenos Aires last week
After being penalized for a foul, the 29-year-old gesticulated and aimed insults at the referee’s assistant Marcelo Van Gasse before refusing to shake his hand at the final whistle.
The incident was not initially included in referee Sandro Ricci’s report but was investigated by FIFA after video footage of Messi’s insult emerged.
Along with his ban, Messi was also fined 10,000 Swiss francs.
The captain’s absence is a huge blow for coach Edgardo Bauza, who is already without a number of first-team players in La Paz.
Nicolas Otamendi, Javier Mascherano, Lucas Biglia and Gonzalo Higuain are suspended, while Gabriel Mercado and Emmanuel Mas were forced to withdraw from the squad due to respective hamstring and knee injuries.
Paulo Dybala was initially set for a place on the bench having been struggling with a thigh issue that kept him out against Chile, meaning Sergio Aguero is likely to be the man to replace Messi.