World Cup 2018: Lionel Messi leads player boycott of Argentine media

    Story highlights

    • Argentina soccer team boycotts media
    • Lionel Messi explains boycott
    • Players rally round Ezequiel Lavezzi

    (CNN)Argentina may have got their World Cup qualifying campaign back on track, but the negative atmosphere surrounding the national team shows no sign of going away.

    After beating Colombia 3-0, Lionel Messi led his 25 teammates into the cramped Estadio San Juan press room and announced they would be boycotting the country's media.
      While heavy -- and often justified -- criticism of the team's performances has become commonplace in the press, the Barcelona star said recent personal accusations -- the alleged recreational drug use of a teammate -- had crossed the line.
      "As you already know, because here you know everything, we are here to tell you that we have taken the decision to not speak with the press anymore," Messi, his voice quivering with either anger or nervousness, told the packed room.
      "We have received a lot of accusations, a big lack of respect and we never said anything -- but I think this exceeds everything."
      Reports alleging Ezequiel Lavezzi smoked marijuana at Argentina's training camp was the final straw for Messi and his compatriots.
      "The accusation aimed at 'Pocho' (Lavezzi) is very serious because you say so and we don't say anything, the public think it's like that. A lot of the people buy what you say. We deeply regret that it's got to be like this, but there is no other option," added Messi.

      'Very serious'

      It later emerged at the media conference that Lavezzi, who plays for Hebei China Fortune, is taking the reporter to court. Lavezzi's agent wasn't immediately available for comment after being contacted by CNN.
      "We know there are a lot of you that aren't in the game of lacking respect," Messi continued. "Because you can criticize us if we lose, if we win and you can opine on whether we played well or if we played badly -- what we do on the pitch.
      "But getting into one's personal life and to make this type of accusation, and it's not the first, is very serious, very serious.
      "You're not going to keep killing us, you're not going to keep saying a million things like you have been. Thanks very much, good night," the Argentine captain cordially finished, before leading his teammates out of the room.
      Prior to Tuesday's win, Argentina found itself outside of the five World Cup qualifying places after two consecutive defeats, but a stunning Messi free-kick and goals from Lucas Pratto and Angel Di Maria ensure it finishes the year fifth.
      With both Chile and Ecuador hitting three goals on their way to victory, Colombia was the big loser, falling to sixth and outside the final qualifying place.
      The top four teams automatically qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, while the fifth-placed team goes into a two-leg playoff against a team from Oceania.
      Brazil beat Peru in the day's late game to extend its lead at the top of the table to to four points.
      There are just six rounds left to play, with the next fixtures scheduled for March 2017.