SAO PAULO (AP) — Organizers may as well give the World Cup to Brazil right now, according to Croatia’s Dejan Lovren, after the defender found himself at the center of a penalty controversy in his team’s 3-1 defeat to the host nation Thursday.
Brazil striker Fred went down in the penalty area under slight contact from Lovren in the 71st minute, allowing Neymar to convert a spot kick that gave Brazil a decisive 2-1 lead in Thursday’s tournament opener.
Lovren said referee Yuichi Nishimura’s decision was a “big shame” and that “if it is like this, then we can give the World Cup directly to Brazil.
“Of course I am angry. I want to cry now but what can you do?” he told reporters. “If you look at the game I think you saw everything. So I don’t need to explain.”
Criticism of Nishimura’s penalty award was shared by Croatia coach Niko Kovac, whose team continues its Group A campaign against Cameroon on Wednesday.
“It was a wrong decision by the referee,” Kovac said. “I think that the whole world saw the big mistake.”
Midfielder Ivan Rakitic added: “This was a great game by both teams and it’s a pity it was spoiled by a bad referee decision.”
Other Croatia players said they were pleased with their performance while expressing anger about the officiating.
Defender Vedran Corluka described the penalty as “embarrassing.”
“I think that when it was 1-1 in the second half we were quite in control of the game and after he gave the penalty it changed the game,” Corluka told The Associated Press. “I congratulate Brazil, but I don’t think they deserved to win today.”
Follow Heller on Twitter @aronhellerap
Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.