Vina del Mar: Argentine football superstar Lionel Messi has said the decision to ban his club mate Neymar for four international matches that ended his Copa America participation was unfortunate but refused to opine on the fairness of the ban on the Brazilian.
Lionel Messi. Pic/AFP
A disciplinary panel of South American football's governing body, Conmebol, on Friday fined Neymar $10,000 and banned him for four matches for misconduct after being sent off after Brazil's 0-1 loss to Colombia on Wednesday.
"All I can say is that Neymar is my friend and I'd have liked him to be able to play all the way through the tournament," the Argentine was quoted as saying by marca.com on Sunday.
"It would have been nice for the Copa America not to be deprived of a player of his class, but I don't want to get into whether his suspension was right or wrong," Messi went on.
The Copa America board originally suspended the star for two games early on Thursday, then Conmebol reduced the ban to a single game before Friday's final ruling.
Neymar was given the strong punishment after the referee's report said Neymar waited in the tunnel to the team's dressing room for match official Enrique Osses and verbally abused him.
Brazil will appeal their star striker Neymar's four-game suspension that has ruled him out of the rest of the ongoing Copa America.
Brazil coach Dunga said on Saturday his confederation's "legal department will file a counterpoint to Neymar's sanction".
Argentina defeated Jamaica 1-0 on Saturday to enter the quarters of Copa. But their performance were mostly subdued.
Messi admitted that Argentina had eased off after half-time.
"We dropped the tempo in the second half, that's a fact. I don't know why that happened, but we struggled to find space," he said.
But he praised his side's performance before the break: "We had a great first half in which we created a lot of chances."