Argentina captain Lionel Messi has expressed his disappointment that Brazil counterpart Neymar is set to miss the rest of the Copa America. Neymar has been handed a four-match ban after he was sent off at the end of Brazil's 1-0 defeat to Colombia, when he kicked the ball at Pablo Armero and then appeared to head-butt Jeison Murillo when he was confronted.
Brazil have announced that they will appeal the suspension, but it remains to be seen whether they will meet with any success, with a member of CONMEBOL's disciplinary committee saying the forward "got off lightly" given that referee reported he was confronted in the tunnel after the game.
Messi, whose Argentina side progressed to the knockout phase as group winners after Saturday's 1-0 win over Jamaica, said he was saddened by the news of his Barcelona teammate's suspension. "I'm sorry he's no longer in this Copa America," Messi said, according to the BBC.
"Neymar is a friend and I care about him. I'm sorry about the suspension he was given because I believe he is a very important player for Brazil.
"Messi, who won his 100th cap on Saturday, is now focused on helping Argentina to a first major trophy since the 1993 Copa America, and he warned that the 2014 World Cup finalists had to improve.
"We reached the first goal, which was to advance in first place,'' Messi said after the Jamaica game. "We played a great first half and we could've scored more, but in the second we didn't have the same intensity, everything was slower. In the knockout matches we can't let that happen." Argentina coach Gerardo Martino added:
"The second half was boring. We were in control but didn't have enough quickness to be able to threaten Jamaica or any other rival. If we play like this in future games we will be in trouble."