Croatia referee fury
Croatian head coach Niko Kovac describes the crucial penalty decision in their World Cup opener as ‘ridiculous’, reports Sky Sports.
As expected, Brazil won the opening match of the 2014 World Cup, beating the Balkan side 3-1. But what should have been a joyous and celebratory occasion was marred by controversy, following the highly contentious award of a 71st-minute penalty for the hosts.
With the scores level at 1-1, Fred fell dramatically to the ground in the penalty area despite very little contact from Croatia’s Dejan Lovren, and Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura pointed to the spot. Despite goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa’s best efforts, Neymar’s kick found the net, giving the Seleção a vital advantage.
Kovac railed: "I don't think anybody, anywhere in the stadium, saw this as a penalty. If you continue like this you will have 100 penalties. I think 2.5 billion people watching on TV saw this was not a penalty. This was ridiculous and if we continue in this way we will have a circus.”
Croatian anger was later compounded when Nishimura disallowed a potential equaliser for a foul on Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar.
Despite the defeat, Croatia contributed much to this opening match. Having taken the lead after forcing Marcelo to put through his own goal, they made Brazil work extremely hard and had further chances to get something from the game.
Refereeing controversy aside, Kovac was magnanimous in defeat and proud of his team. "I would like to congratulate Brazil as they are a great opponent, but I am proud of my team,” he said. “I am a sporting person and Brazil were excellent, but I believe Croatia deserved at least a point out of this game."
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