SAO PAULO, July 7: Lionel Messi hit out at �corruption and the referees� at the Copa America after he was harshly sent off as Argentina secured third place with a 2-1 victory over Chile here.
In a niggly and fractious match on Saturday, five-time Ballon d�Or winner Messi and Chile captain Gary Medel were given their marching orders eight minutes from half-time after tangling on the goalline.
Television replays of the incident suggested Messi had done little wrong.
�Corruption and the referees are preventing people from enjoying the football and they�re ruining it a bit,� said the global star.
Messi had already been angered by the refereeing during Argentina�s 2-0 semifinal loss against Brazil, claiming the hosts were getting preferential treatment from South American football�s governing body CONMEBOL.
Saturday�s match will be most remembered for the double sending-off and the melee it sparked.
In what seemed an innocuous clash, a frustrated Messi shoved Medel in the back as the centre-back shepherded the ball out of play.
A furious Medel responded by chest-bumping Messi twice in an incident that probably merited no more than a single yellow card for the Chilean.
Incredibly, Paraguayan referee Mario Diaz de Vivar showed the two captains the red card.
�Medel always goes to the limit, but it wasn�t a red card for either of us. He (the referee) could have consulted VAR,� said Messi.
VAR was the issue in Argentina�s defeat by Brazil as Messi and his team-mates twice felt they should have had a penalty, only for Ecuadoran referee Roddy Zambrano to not only wave away their claims but refuse to consult the video assistance.
�Brazil were the hosts and they�re managing a lot in CONMEBOL these days, which makes it complicated� for everyone else, Messi had said, while criticising the referee.
That was something he felt he paid for in this match.
�I think the dismissal was over what I said. My words had repercussions, but you must always be sincere,� he said after the victory over Chile. � AFP