SAO PAULO - Furious Croatia defender Dejan Lovren branded the penalty awarded against him during Brazil's 3-1 win in the World Cup opener on Thursday a "scandal", questioning the referee's right to be officiating at the showpiece event.
Unfancied Croatia took a shock lead when Marcelo put the ball into his own net early in the Group A match before Neymar levelled in front of a jubilant crowd in the Corinthians Arena.
But the European side were holding their own in the second half until Japanese ref Yuichi Nishimura pointed to the spot after Fred backed into Lovren and fell.
"I think this referee didn't deserve to be here," said the Southampton player. "I don't know for what he deserved to be here. It's really disappointing for us because I think we were playing a good game against a big team, Brazil.
"Two billion people I think saw that it was not a penalty. I didn't touch him."
"We're really disappointed but what can you do against 12 players? You can't do anything," he added.
"I'm sad, that's it, because we played a good match and the referee -- it wasn't a mistake, it was a scandal. It's a scandal for everyone, it's a scandal for FIFA. I think this referee shouldn't be at this World Cup."
Croatian fans celebrated after their team scored first against hosts Brazil. PHOTO/AFP
Frustrated Croatia coach Niko Kovac said the referee was "out of his depth" but his Brazilian counterpart Luiz Felipe Scolari was adamant Nishimura was correct to award the spot kick converted by Neymar to make the score 2-1.
"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", adding that he blamed himself for not saying during Wednesday's press conference that he would be "keeping a beady eye on the referee".
"If we continue in this way we will have a circus," he added, saying world-class players needed a top-notch ref.
Kovac said he felt his team had deserved at least a point, praising his players for their performance in front of passionate support for the home side.
But it was the Brazilian fans laughing last after their side's 3-1 victory. PHOTO/AFP
He said he did not blame Fred for his tumble, even though he questioned the ease with which he fell to the turf.
"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."
But Scolari said the referee was right to point to the spot.
"For me it was a penalty. I have seen it 10 times now and I think it was a penalty," he said, adding that he understood Kovac's reaction.
FIFA chief Sepp Blatter Wednesday called for managers to be given two challenges per match when they could check key refereeing decisions against video replays.
The suggestion, which came out of left field at the close of the FIFA congress, would mimic systems used in tennis and cricket and comes with goal-line technology making its World Cup debut in Brazil.