SAO PAULO, June 13 – Furious Croatia coach Niko Kovac said 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.
But 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.
“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”.
The disappointed coach said he felt his team had deserved at least a point from the match, praising his players for their performance in front of passionate support for the home side.
He said he did not blame Fred for his tumble.
“I cannot blame Fred because everybody tries to do that. This is part of the sport whether you like it or not. This is part and parcel of football.
“What I want is for the referees to stick to the laws of the game, applying them equally to both teams. The referee was well placed, he was not unsighted, he saw everything and he took that decision.”