LIONEL MESSI and the Argentine FA have have demanded his controversial Copa America red card is overturned – but fear he could get a much longer ban for claiming the tournament was "corrupt".
The Barcelona legend – dismissed after clashing heads with Gary Medel as Argentina beat Chile 2-1 in the third-place play-off – alleged "the whole thing" was "fixed for Brazil".
Now Argentina's La Nacion newspaper say Messi has signed a letter from his country's FA urging South America's football governing body COMMEBOL to reduce his first dismissal since 2005 to a yellow card.
And if the sending-off is upheld Argentina are pleading for just a mandatory one-game ban, which would keep Messi out of only the friendly with Chile in Los Angeles on September 3.
But reports from Spanish news-site AS suggested Messi could be suspended from international football for up to two years – for breaching rules on not insulting the South American Football Federation.
Messi, who refused to attend the medal ceremony, had hit out: “There is no doubt, the whole thing is set up for Brazil.
“I did not want to be part of this corruption. We shouldn’t have to be part of this disrespect we suffered during the Copa America.
“We could have gone further, but we weren’t allowed into the final. Corruption, referees and all the rest stopped people from enjoying the football.”
But tournament organisers released a statement saying: "Putting the integrity of the competition at risk is disrespectful to all participants and to the professionals and institutions that have worked really hard in the last 18 months to hold this edition of the oldest football tournament in the world."
The Argentine FA, though, have complained of "irregularities".
But their main hope is that Messi is cleared to play in 2022 World Cup qualifiers from next March.
COMMEBOL, however, have also condemned Messi's outburst.
They said: “Accepting the outcome of a match with respect is a fundamental pillar of fair play.
"The same goes for the refereeing decisions.
“It’s unacceptable there have been unfounded accusations that misrepresent the truth and put to judgement the integrity of Copa America.
"These represent a lack of respect for the competition.”
Messi had been furious to see red after a flare-up that started when he appeared to shove Medel as they chased a ball off the pitch.
Medel was also sent off as he responded with a body-barging contest.
The Besiktas and ex-Cardiff midfielder, 31, repeatedly pushed Messi, who raised his arms to the sides to indicate he was not being aggressive.
Messi was already in potentially hot water as he had spoken out just days earlier following Brazil's 2-0 defeat of Argentina in the semi-finals.
He said then: “I hope VAR and referees don’t play any part in the final and that Peru can compete — but it looks tough to me.
“I always tell the truth and I’m honest. If what I say has repercussions that is not my business.”
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