Croatian players rip World Cup referee for critical call in loss to Brazil, propose possible boycott

Martin Rogers
Yahoo Sports

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SAO PAULO – Croatia defender Vedran Corluka launched into a spectacular verbal rant that accused controversial referee Yuichi Nishimura of showing favoritism to Brazil following his team's 3-1 defeat to the host nation in the opening game of the World Cup.

Corluka and his teammates were furious Nishimura awarded a penalty in the second half and claimed other teams in the World Cup should consider boycotting the tournament if what he described as an "embarrassing" situation carries on.

"If this continues, I think no one should play against Brazil," Corluka told Yahoo Sports. "We can just give them the World Cup and everyone can go home. [Nishimura] shouldn't be allowed to referee another game."

Croatia began the game strongly and took the lead when Brazil's Marcelo scored an own goal in the 11th minute, with Neymar equalizing for the hosts in the 27th. But the pivotal moment of the game came midway through the second half when Fred fell to the ground after the softest of touches from Dejan Lovren, and Nishimura inexplicably pointed to the spot. Neymar converted the penalty and Brazil was on course for victory.

Croatia's Dejan Lovren (6) is booked by referee Yuichi Nishimura. (AP)
Croatia's Dejan Lovren (6) is booked by referee Yuichi Nishimura. (AP)

"I think it is embarrassing," Corluka said. "It is embarrassing. Everyone who was watching saw that nothing happens. I didn't see anything. I saw a touch on [Fred's] body but [Lovren] didn't even pull him. [Nishimura] was keen to give the penalty."

"Everyone saw that," Corluka added when asked if Nishimura had specifically favored Brazil. "Not just the Croatia players. Every 50-50 decision goes to them. It was the opening of the World Cup and you expect something more.

"I congratulate Brazil but they didn't deserve it today."

Nishimura is well respected in refereeing circles but has also been involved in some controversial moments. He angered Brazilians in 2010 when he issued a red card to Felipe Melo in its 2-1 quarterfinal defeat to the Netherlands.

And he was criticized during the African Cup of Nations in 2008 for failing to send off any Angola players who angrily and aggressively circled him during a game.

The Croatia camp criticized FIFA for appointing Nishimura, claiming it was unable to communicate with the 42-year-old as he does not have a strong command of English.

"I never saw in my life in a World Cup that a referee doesn't speak English," Corluka said. "I don't know how to say it. I think it is amazing that he speaks with the players in Japanese. It is ridiculous. He was speaking something in Japanese but no one could understand him because we don't have Japanese players. It is quite fascinating to be honest."

FIFA selects 24 referees for the group stage of the World Cup and narrows its pool significantly for the knockout phase. Officials who perform poorly are often left off future assignments, like Malian ref Koman Coulibaly in 2010, who did not see any more action after disallowing what would have been a winning goal for the U.S. against Slovenia.

Though Nishimura was given a significant honor by being selected for the opener, it is possible he'll be sidelined for the remainder of the tournament.

[Related: Brazil falls behind early but rallies for win]

Croatia star midfielder Luka Modric insisted his team was on course to avoid defeat until Nishimura's shock call.

"I think we played a really good game," Modric said. "At least we should get a point from this game. We didn't deserve to lose."

Brazil will take on Mexico in Fortaleza on June 17, while Croatia will try to save its campaign against Cameroon in Manaus the following day.

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