Argentina's hopes of reaching next year's World Cup have been given a huge boost after FIFA overturned Lionel Messi's four-game ban for swearing at an assistant referee.
Lionel Messi's four-match international ban has been overturned by FIFA.
FIFA said there was not enough evidence to support the four-game punishment, of which the 29-year-old Barcelona striker has already served one game - a damaging 1-0 defeat by Bolivia in March.
Messi's continued absence would further threaten Argentina's participation at the 2018 World Cup, with the 2014 finalists in danger of failing to qualify for the first time since 1970.
Football's governing body said its appeal committee sided with a challenge filed on Messi's behalf by the Argentine Football Association (AFA) and lifted "the sanctions imposed on him as a result".
"Despite the fact that the FIFA Appeal Committee considered Lionel Messi's behaviour as reproachable" it concluded "the evidence available was not sufficient" to justify a four-game international ban. The ruling also means Messi will be spared the 10,000 Swiss francs ($10,000) fine.
The superstar was originally found guilty of "having directed insulting words at an assistant referee" in a World Cup qualifier against Chile which Argentina won 1-0 thanks to a penalty from the Barcelona hitman.
Argentine football officials conceded that Messi's foul-mouthed tirade was wrong but argued that FIFA's sanction was disproportionate and politically motivated.
They have won only one of eight World Cup 2018 qualifiers played without Messi, but have won five from six with him on the pitch.
He can now however return when qualifying resumes in August with a clash against Uruguay, followed by matches against Venezuela, Peru and Ecuador.
mds (AFP, AP)