Furious Messi blasts Copa America officials after loss to Brazil
Lionel Messi accused Copa America officials of favouring hosts Brazil after Argentina's hopes were ended in Belo Horizonte.
Goals from Gabriel Jesus and Roberto Firmino handed the Selecao a place in Sunday's final with a 2-0 win over their most bitter rivals in Wednesday night's semi-final.
Argentina had chances themselves, with Messi and Sergio Aguero both striking the woodwork, and were arguably the better side throughout the 90 minutes.
However, it was the officials who drew the ire of Messi after the game, with the Barcelona superstar scathing in his assessment of referee Roddy Zambrano and the Video Assistant Referee.
Messi had approached the officiating team at full-time for a frank exchange of views.
Messi was furious at a decision not to award Aguero a penalty after he appeared to be cleaned out when running through on goal shortly before Firmino doubled the hosts' advantage.
The challenge on Aguero wasn't even looked at by VAR, something which - given the use of VAR at the tournament - left Messi enraged.
"They were not better than us. They found the net early and the second goal came from a penalty they didn't award," Messi told reporters.
"The officiating was crazy. There were clear penalties, on [Nicolas] Otamendi, on 'Kun' [Sergio Aguero].
"He [the referee] was on their side. In every divided ball or dispute, he inclined the pitch their way.
"They [the officials] had called a lot of bulls**t, but they didn't even check the VAR, that's unbelievable.
"That happened all over the game. At the first glance of contact, they ruled in their [Brazil's] favour and this kind of bulls**t distracted us from the game.
“Throughout the tournament they called bulls**t handballs, bulls**t penalties, and bulls**t fouls. But somehow today, they refused to use VAR.
"There is no excuses for us, but we need to review this, analyse it and let's hope CONMEBOL does something about it - but surely not, because Brazil commands too much power in the organisation.
"I spoke to the referee and he said he would respect us that he would look after us but at no moment did I see that.
"I think we played a great game. We made a great effort and they were not superior to us."
Messi quit the national team for a brief period after their Copa America final defeat in 2016, but at the age of 32 is set to continue with the Albiceleste.
And he believes that Argentina can have a bright future ahead of them - with another Copa America on the horizon in 2020.
"Something new is on the horizon. I hope we are respected and not criticised. They should let the team be and let them grow.
"The truth is I have got on very well with this group of players and if I have to help in some way I will.
"This is a great group which is growing and if I can join them I will."
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