Dele Alli in Danger of Missing World Cup Start Over England Middle-Finger Gesture
Dele Alli may miss the start of the 2018 World Cup in Russia if FIFA find him guilty of displaying "offensive behaviour" during September's international break.
The Tottenham Hotspur star was caught on camera gesturing with his middle finger during the Three Lions' 2-1 win over Slovakia at Wembley, and his action has led to football's world governing body opening disciplinary proceedings over the incident.
The Daily Mail has now claimed that, if FIFA finds that Dele had aimed his finger at referee Clement Turpin and not, as stated, at team mate Kyle Walker, he could end up facing a three-match ban - a suspension that would seem him sit out England's first World Cup group match.
The 21-year-old will hope that his account of events will see FIFA hand out a leaner punishment of two matches instead, which would ensure that he only misses England's final two qualifiers in October.
However, both the Football Association and Dele are preparing strong defences in combat any possibility of a lengthier ban being thrown his way.
The FA has until Wednesday to officially respond to FIFA's charge and are using every avenue available to provide a strong case to argue that the gesture was not made towards French official Turpin.
That will include Manchester City full-back Walker giving his version of events in a testimony that they hope will help sway FIFA into not coming down so hard on Dele over the issue.
Article 57 of FIFA's disciplinary code makes no mention about "offensive behaviour or fair play" being aimed at any one individual in particular, but insulting referees and other match officials will be deemed more serious by default.
Both Dele and Walker took to social media in the immediate aftermath of Monday's game to fend off any accusations that his middle finger was aimed at Turpin.
Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate also revealed that the sign was a joke between the midfielder and right-back as he sought to play down the offensive gesticulation.