Argentina 'hopeful' after FIFA appeal of Lionel Messi World Cup qualifying ban

Lionel Messi and Argentina on Thursday presented an hour-and-a-half long appeal before FIFA in Zurich in an effort to see his four-match ban in World Cup qualifying reduced.

Messi's lawyer, Juan de Dios Crespo, told ESPN FC Radio in Argentina (107.9 FM) that the group presented their defense in the case and "left feeling satisfied with the appeal."

Argentina are not expected to get an immediate verdict, but De Dios Crespo confirmed to Telam that they were seeking to limit the ban to the one match Messi has already served. The FIFA appeals panel typically gives a detailed verdict within weeks in non-urgent cases.

Argentina's next World Cup qualifier is at Uruguay on Aug. 31.

Messi was dealt the ban for insulting an assistant referee. It was imposed when the FIFA disciplinary committee gave its ruling hours before Argentina's 2-0 loss in Bolivia in March.

FIFA was able to ban Messi after match officials did not report the Argentina captain for verbally abusing a linesman late in a 1-0 win over Chile on March 23.

"I think we did a very good job," De Dios Crespo said. "FIFA has asked us not to comment a lot on the subject. Once they announce their decision I will speak more.

"They must study the case now. It is possible that next week FIFA will announce a decision."

FIFA disciplinary rules require a sanction "at least four matches for unsporting conduct toward a match official."

Previous FIFA verdicts have resulted in a player getting at least one match of the ban suspended on probation.

In a similar case from a South American qualifying game last September, FIFA also banned Chile midfielder Gary Medel for four matches after he was shown a red card for verbally abusing a referee.

However, FIFA deferred one game of the sanction for a two-year probationary period.

"Our optimism is based upon a job well done," De Dios Crespo said of Thursday's hearing. "I can't discuss the case right now. In a few days I will be able to give you all the details. But now I cannot tell you whether or not there was videoconferencing [with Messi from Barcelona]."

Messi is also currently banned for home games against Venezuela on Sept. 5 and Peru on Oct. 5.

Argentina are fifth in the 10-team South American group with four games left. The 2014 World Cup runners-up are currently in line to advance to a November playoff against a team from Oceania, likely to be New Zealand.

Asked whether Argentina planned an appeal before the Court of Arbitration for Sport should FIFA not reduce the ban, De Dios Crespo said he would not speculate.

"Let's wait to see what happens," he said. "We have asked that the ban be lifted. We are hopeful it will be completely reduced. We shall see."

A 2014 World Cup case ruling also offers hope for Messi and his lawyers. Fernando Santos, then coaching Greece, was initially banned for eight matches for verbally using officials during a last 16 loss against Costa Rica in Brazil.

When Santos, by then coaching Portugal, appealed at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the ban was reduced to four games. Two of those games were deferred for six months of probation.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.