Dive? Controversy dogs Brazil victory
Goal from a controversial penalty, and star-striker Neymar lucky to avoid a red card in Brazil's 3-1 victory over Croatia.PT0M57S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-3a193 620 349 June 13, 2014
Furious Croatia coach Niko Kovac says the Japanese referee in his side’s 3-1 defeat to Brazil was ‘‘out of his depth’’ after a bitterly disputed penalty changed the course of the World Cup opener.
The unfancied European team took a shock lead when Marcelo scored an own goal in the 11th minute before Neymar levelled.
Croatia, ranked 18th in the world, were holding their own in the second half until referee Yuichi Nishimura pointed to the spot after Fred backed into Croatian defender Dejean Lovren and fell.
Brazil's Fred goes down under a challenge from Croatia's Dejan Lovren. Photo: Reuters
‘‘If anybody saw that was a penalty, let them raise their hand. I cannot raise my hand. I didn’t see it,’’ said Kovac.
‘‘If you continue in this vein then there will be 100 penalties during this World Cup.’’
Kovac branded the spot kick award ‘‘ridiculous’’, saying he blamed himself for not saying during Wednesday’s press conference that he would be ‘‘keeping a beady eye on the referee’’.
Furious: Croatia coach Niko Kovac. Photo: Getty Images
Kovac warned the World Cup could become a "circus" after the awarding of a soft 71st-minute penalty to hosts Brazil.
Neymar scored his second goal of the game from the spot to put Brazil 2-1 ahead, and they went on to win 3-1.
Kovac was left fuming by the decision.
Fred was awarded a penalty but appeared not to have been fouled. Photo: Reuters
"This was ridiculous today, and if we continue in this way we will have a circus," he told reporters at a post-match press conference dominated by questions about the penalty.
"If that's a penalty, we don't need to play football any more. Let's play basketball instead. The lads played their hearts out but that was outright thuggery by a referee who was just out of his depth for a game of this magnitude."
After that shocking decision I will be very surprise if this referee take charge of another game in this World Cup. #BrazilvsCroatia— fabrice muamba (@fmuamba) June 12, 2014
June 12, 2014
Japan's referee Yuichi Nishimura points at the penalty spot. Photo: Reuters
Kovac, who said his team deserved at least a draw from a match played at a packed Corinthians arena in Sao Paulo, also felt Oscar's third goal near the end of the game should not have been allowed due to a foul earlier in the move.
"Was there a foul on my player? Yes. It was a foul. But that's life. We will march on. We will not be swayed."
World Cup 2014: Brazil v Croatia highlights
Brazil's Fred is fouled by Croatia's Dejan Lovren inside the area for a penalty. Photo: Reuters
Kovac, stony-faced yet calm, praised his team, which took the lead in the 11th minute after an own goal by Marcelo, and had several scoring chances during the rest of the match.
"My lads have fought for two years to reach the World Cup. They worked hard, prepared, and then they were faced with such a penalty decision here. You can imagine walking into our dressing room - what kind of mood my lads are in."
Fred goes down
Nishimura ruled that Croatia's Dejan Lovren had fouled Fred, who appeared to throw himself to the ground, but Kovac did not blame the Brazilian for the incident.
"The referee was well-placed, he was not unsighted, he saw everything and he took that decision. I don't blame Fred at all."
Despite the setback, Kovac said he remained confident his team could progress out of the group. In their other two Group A games, Croatia play Cameroon in the hot and humid Amazon city of Manaus on June 18 and Mexico in Recife five days later.
"I am optimistic," he told Croatian television. "Naturally the lads are a bit down after this, but we will be up again as soon as we've had something to eat. We just have to make our way into the knockout stages because we are definitely good enough."
Kovac said he looked forward to welcoming back Mario Mandzukic into the team for the next two games, after he was suspended for the opening encounter.