Messi's Argentina qualifier ban overturned

He had been given a four match suspension

Argentina, Lionel Messi,

Argentina's Lionel Messi, right, argues with assistant referee Emerson Augusto de Carvalho during a 2018 Russia World Cup qualifying soccer match between Argentina and Chile at the Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)

Lionel Messi is now available for Argentina's upcoming 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers after winning his appeal against a four match ban which had originally been imposed for directing "insulting words" towards an assistant referee in a win over Chile.

The Barcelona forward has already served one match of that suspension, as Argentina lost 2-0 away in Bolivia in his absence.

In a statement, FIFA confirmed: "Despite the fact that the FIFA Appeal Committee considered Lionel Messi’s behaviour as reproachable, the former concluded that the evidence available was not sufficient to establish to the appropriate standard, i.e. to the comfortable satisfaction of the members of the Appeal Committee, that art. 77 a) of the FDC, according to which the Disciplinary Committee is responsible for sanctioning serious infringements which have escaped the match officials’ attention, could be applied.

"The Appeal Committee nevertheless underlines the importance of always showing respect to the match officials, stressing that such a principle is essential in football and any unsporting conduct that may be contrary to the principles of fair play cannot be accepted.

"In view of the above decision, the suspension for four matches imposed on Lionel Messi, which entered into force on 28 March 2017, and the fine of CHF 10,000 have been lifted."

While news of Messi's ban being overturned is a boost for the national team, Argentina are in a very tricky position in World Cup qualifying after that Bolivia defeat.

They sit fifth in the CONMEBOL super group, which would be enough to secure a place in the inter-confederation playoffs.

But they are only two points clear of sixth place Ecuador. Fall behind Ecuador or any teams below outside the Top 5 and the 2014 World Cup finalists would miss the next tournament in Russia.

With four rounds of matches to go, Brazil are the only team guaranteed their place in Russia, sitting a full nine points clear at the top.

Between them and Argentina, sit Colombia, Uruguay and Chile.

The next set of South American qualifying games will be on August 31st, with Argentina facing a tough trip to Uruguay, while Ecuador below them face a Brazil side who have already booked their place at the World Cup.

After Argentina visit Uruguay, their final three fixtures will be against Venezuela and Peru at home, as well as Ecuador away on the final round of games.