SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) Brazilian star Neymar was banned for the rest of the Copa America on Friday, stripping the tournament of one of its biggest stars.
A disciplinary panel of the South American confederation ruled that he must sit out four games for his conduct in a match against Colombia, when he was sent off after the final whistle.
The Barcelona forward was also fined $10,000.
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Brazil will appeal the ruling.
Neymar picked up a red card after apparently kicking the ball toward Colombia’s Pablo Armero after the referee had blown the whistle in Colombia’s 1-0 victory on Wednesday. He also appeared to head-butt another player who came to confront him, and Brazilian media said he confronted the referee before going into the change-rooms.
Colombia’s Carlos Bacca shoved Neymar from behind during the altercation and also was sent off after the match. He was banned for two matches on Friday.
Neymar had already been shown a yellow card during the game, which would’ve been enough to keep him from playing in the key group match against Venezuela on Sunday. He had received his first yellow card of the tournament in Brazil’s opening 2-1 win over Peru. Players are automatically suspended with two yellow cards.
Brazil, which has been heavily dependent on Neymar, could still be eliminated depending on its result against Venezuela on Sunday. If it advances to the knockout round, it could play three more games. If Brazil doesn’t make it to the final, Neymar’s suspension will be extended into the next Copa America.
All four teams in Group C have three points each heading into the final round. The top two teams in each of the three Copa America groups advance, in addition to the two-best third-place finishers.
Neymar arrived at the South American tournament boosted by the Champions League title with Barcelona and was carrying Brazil’s hopes for a title in its first official competition since the World Cup at home last year.
The 23-year-old forward also couldn’t play in the decisive stages of the World Cup after injuring his back in the quarterfinal against Colombia. Without Neymar, Brazil was humiliated in a 7-1 defeat to Germany in the semifinals and lost 3-0 to the Netherlands in the third-place game.
Neymar was key for Brazil in the opening win against Peru in this year’s Copa America, scoring a goal and setting up the last-minute winner by Douglas Costa. He struggled against Colombia, though, and appeared nervous from the start. He got into several confrontations with the Colombian players and constantly complained to Chilean referee Enrique Osses.
After the match, Neymar said everything was caused by a ”weak referee.”
He loudly complained of the yellow card he received during the match after the ball bounced off his hand inside the area, saying the touch was involuntary.
Neymar’s substitute in Brazil’s squad has not been announced yet, but veteran striker Robinho is expected to take his spot in the attack.