Digital Football Journalist @ronnabe
Lionel Messi assures Argentina of international future after Copa America exit
Barcelona forward criticised performance of referee in 2-0 semi-final defeat to Brazil
Last Updated: 03/07/19 3:02pm
Lionel Messi has allayed fears that he may retire from international football for a second time after their Copa America exit.
Argentina were beaten 2-0 by Brazil in Belo Horizonte overnight, with their semi-final exit ensuring the five-time Ballon d'Or winner has still never won an international title.
Only last month Messi cast doubt over his chances of playing in the World Cup finals in Qatar in 2022 - when he will be 35 - but after another disappointment on the international stage, the Barcelona forward confirmed his commitment to his country.
"Something new is on the horizon," he told reporters, adding that he hoped the fans in Argentina would recognise the side's efforts during the tournament.
"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."
Messi, who with 68 goals is Argentina's record goalscorer, previously retired from international duty in 2016 after missing a shootout penalty in the Copa America final defeat to Chile.
He later returned to the fold in time to help his country qualify for the World Cup in 2018, but has hinted several times since that his time representing his country may be coming to an end.
While Messi called for the Argentina fans to not criticise the national team, he made clear his fury at the performance of referee Roddy Zambrano in their defeat to Brazil.
Argentina felt several calls went in their bitter rivals' favour, and Messi said: "They were not better than us. They found the net early and the second goal came from a penalty they didn't award.
"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.
"It's not an excuse, but the truth is that, in this Copa, they kept on blowing for stupid things, for handballs, penalties. But today, they didn't even go to VAR when there were clear plays that should have been looked at."
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