Lionel Messi can play for Argentina after ban expires - AFA president

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Lionel Messi can play in Argentina's opening World Cup qualifier next month because the statute of limitations has run out on the ban he was given during last year's Copa America, the president of the Argentine Football Association (AFA) said on Thursday.

Messi was banned for one game after being sent off in the Copa America third-place playoff against Chile and for levelling accusations of "corruption" at South American football chiefs.

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Messi had been expected to serve the ban by missing Argentina's qualifier against Ecuador that is scheduled to take place in Buenos Aires on Oct. 8.

However, Claudio Tapia said he had consulted with the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) President Alejandro Dominguez, who "confirmed the statute of limitations had expired and that he [Messi] is able to play," the AFA twitter said.

The Barcelona forward was shown the red card after clashing with Gary Medel and afterwards he alleged the tournament had been fixed in favour of the hosts Brazil, who beat Argentina in a controversial semifinal on their way to claiming the title.

Messi played in two friendlies at the end of 2019, scoring in a 1-0 win over Brazil and a 2-2 draw with Uruguay. Initially CONMEBOL said the ban was for an official match, but now according to Tapia, he is free to play.

Argentina, who last won the World Cup in 1986, kick off their qualifying campaign with a double-header at home to Ecuador and away to Bolivia.