Croatia coach Niko Kovac continued his attack on Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura, who officiated the opening game of the World Cup between Brazil and Croatia, for awarding a controversial penalty in the home team’s 3-1 victory in Sao Paulo on Thursday night. Kovac was outspoken about the penalty decision after the game, saying: “If anybody saw this was a penalty anywhere in the stadium, raise their hands. If you continue like this you will have 100 penalties.”
However, the former Croatia international was even harsher when speaking to Croatian TV: “If that was a penalty, we don’t need to play soccer any more,” Kovac told broadcaster HTV. “Let’s play basketball. It’s a shame. We talk about respect, but that wasn’t respect – Croatia didn’t get any. If that’s how you start the World Cup, we’d all better give it up and go home."
Southampton defender Dejan Lovren, who was judged to have fouled Brazil’s striker Fred, leading to the penalty converted by Neymar, was even more furious. “I can hardly hold back the tears,” he said. “Why don’t they just hand out the trophy to Brazil right away? Everything is going their way, everyone is saying they must win it, so why do we play then?”
Added captain Darijo Srna: “It’s hard to stay cool-headed after a defeat like that. We expected the referee to be biased, but not like this … You know, they always tell us about fair play, the refs even hold meetings with us captains about that – and then they do this. But we must begin our preparations for Cameroon, in five days nobody will ask us how we lost to Brazil.”