Stop The Griping: It Was Croatia, Not the Referee That Lost the Match to Brazil

In the modern game, we have lost out on the candid and honest interview in the media.  That’s why the sound bites after Brazil’s 3-1 victory over Croatia were so good.  Croatian coach Niko Kovac was right to say after the match about referee Yuichi Nishimura, “I had a feeling that the referee had one set of rules for us and the other for Brazil.”  The penalty call was sloppy and he bought a bad dive.  A number of other questionable decisions were made, and the crowd undoubtedly influenced the officiating crew.  He has every right to criticize the way the match was handled.

But Croatia did not lose this match because of the referees, they lost because of themselves.

It was apparent from the early going that Brazil were going to struggle defensively in this match.  As they poured forward and tried to feed the ball to Neymar to create scoring opportunities, there was space for Croatia to pressure the Brazilian midfield and create good scoring chances.  Marcelo and Dani Alves (as they are tactically supposed to do) were surging forward and, if Croatia had thought to take advantage of this, they could have launched quicker counters or used their own wingers in their 4-2-3-1 to create scoring opportunities, especially in the first half when the game was in reach.  The first goal was created from just this type of play off the wings.

Additionally, Julio Cesar looked very shaky in net for Brazil, a definite concern for them going forward.  When Croatia challenged him with shots – especially a few outside the box – he looked indecisive or slow to react even to saves that should have given him little trouble.  However, we didn’t see many of these shots, as Croatia only had four on target for the match.

Questions have to be asked about Kovac and his tactics coming into this game.  Neither Ivica Olic nor Ivan Perisic provided much value on the wing and, when you look at their average position on the field, they were more tucked into the midfield, denying Croatia any space.  The substitutions made were to shore up the middle but again, this did not overall improve Croatia’s shape or give them attacking options to trouble a shaky defense.

Eduardo is a player who can provide an offensive spark for Croatia, but I can somewhat understand Kovac not wanting to play him in front of a crowd that, already fired up for the first match, would be mercilessly harassing him for being a Brazilian on the Croatian side.  That said, Kovac would do well to think about tactically using him in the next few matches, both starting and changing Croatia’s shape or having him as an impact sub.

The referee had a miserable match, and deserves the criticism he is getting.  But Croatia lost the opportunity to grab a valuable point in this match on their own.

4 thoughts on “Stop The Griping: It Was Croatia, Not the Referee That Lost the Match to Brazil”

  1. “the crowd undoubtedly influenced the officiating crew”

    — err, no. You really think a professional referee gets influenced by the crowd? think again! He gets influenced by the very strict guidelines he is given by FIFA, nothing else.–

    “But Croatia did not lose this match because of the referees, they lost because of themselves.”
    — err, no. They were denied one goal, then Brazil was given one for free. Ending score 3-1, do the math. You really think a team like Croatia can overcome such a disadvantage against BRAZIL? Not sure many people will agree with you there.
    The real reasons: 1. Fred cheated with his dive and he should be punished for that. 2. Absence of video slowmo playback to help the referee make his decision, they cannot have eyes everywhere!–

    ” they were more tucked into the midfield, denying Croatia any space”
    –When playing against a team like Brazil who has a very strong midfield and center forward, you want to put your own players on the wings?– Don’t think many caoches will agree with you there.

    “Croatia only had four on target for the match.”
    –I think most people will agree that quality prevails over quantity. that being said Every single time Croatia got close to Brazil’s goal there was a real danger for Brazil. You really think Croatia (country of 3 Mil population) should be criticized for that?

    The real problem here is that FIFA won’t use video replay to help the referees with these sorts of incidents.

  2. Yah, that’s a bad article, poorly reasoned and all…

    No team can overcome a sham penalty and a perfectly legal goal disallowed v. Brazil.

    Referinho 3 Croatia 1.

  3. Very poor written article. As a Brazilian, I am ashamed of the way that game went down. The poor Croatians deserved a tie, maybe even a win. I think that Nishimura should be banned from all professional sporting, FIFA needs to make this right for Croatia and finally instill instant replay to be used in all situations like this. a feather touch (if a touch at all) resulted in a penalty but a full out elbow to the neck and head of Modric from Neymar didnt get anything. Shame on you Nishimura. If Brazil wins this tourney its only with an asterix

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