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Friday Kickoff: Croatia hits out at referee; Chicharito unhappy with role; and more

Croatian players protest to the referee.

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If you ask the Croatian national team players, they think that the World Cup should just be handed to Brazil already.

Following Thursday’s World Cup opener, which saw Brazil defeat Croatia 3-1 in Sao Paulo, Croatian players and head coach Niko Kovac hit out at referee Yuichi Nishimura for his controversial decisions. Nishimura gave Neymar a yellow card for an elbow that some thought could have been a red, disallowed a Croatia goal, and awarded Brazil a very soft penalty kick.

According to Croatia and former Tottenham and Manchester City defender Vedran Corluka, Nishimura refused to explain his decisions in English to the players, an astonishing claim.

“I think if this continues then no one should play against Brazil,” Corluka said after the game. “We should just give them the World Cup and everyone can go home. I think it is embarrassing.

“I have never seen a referee in a World Cup that doesn’t speak English. It is quite amazing. He was trying to speak to the players in Japanese. It is ridiculous. He was speaking Japanese but no one could understand him because we don’t have Japanese players.”

Here are more news and notes to kickoff your Friday morning:


Throughout the past few seasons, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez has served a role as a game-changing substitute on the club level with Manchester United.

However, the Mexican national team has long been Hernandez’s place to shine, with a starting role and superstar status being all but guaranteed during his time with El Tri. That is, until now.

The 26-year-old forward has been relegated to the bench by manager Miguel Herrera in favor of Giovani Dos Santos, which has caused Hernandez to lash out at those who can’t see past his reputation as a “super-sub.”

“I’ve never seen myself as a sub and I don’t like being one,” Hernandez said. “And, believe me, I am tired of a lot of people seeing me that way, as a super sub. I’m a player that has made a difference as a starter.”

Despite his frustration with his current role, Hernandez has insisted that his teammates still have his full support ahead of their clash with Cameroon Friday. However, if given the chance, he also looks forward to proving he is worthy of taking his place in the starting XI.

“If they give me 15 or 20 minutes,” Hernandez said, “I want to make it clear that my desire is to play.

“I’m not going to get down,” he added. “There are dreams I want to achieve and I’m always going to fight for them.”


The 2014 World Cup has become the World Cup of injuries, as a slew of the game’s top stars have been forced to withdraw from the tournament. While many of these injuries were accidents, the case of Franck Ribery is one that was entirely preventable, according to French doctors.

The 31-year-old winger was left off the French squad due to a back injury originally suffered in April while with Bayern Munich. However, the club opted to play Ribery just three weeks later and, according to French doctor Franck Le Gall, the club “didn’t manage to solve the problem” of Ribery’s ailments.

“He was out for more or less three weeks and played a match which he probably shouldn’t have played because he played through pain,” Le Gall said.

Le Gall went on to say that Ribery “was just as much bothered” by the injury when he entered France camp as when he originally suffered it. While the national team considered treating Ribery’s ailments with injections, which Le Gall said was standard practice at Bayern, doctors opted to rule Ribery out, as the player has developed a phobia of injections.

“Franck belongs to a club where for all pathological treatments — twisted ankles, bruising, muscle pains, contractions, tears — there are injections,” Le Gall said. “There are 10 per pathology (injury), or 20, 25, 40 per year, or more. So there comes a time when, well … [Ribery] has had enough of injections. If for a moment we thought it could be solved that way, we didn’t do it, because he’s scared of injections.”


Despite being a part of ESPN’s coverage of the World Cup, Roberto Martinez’s biggest success Friday didn’t come from the network’s shiny new World Cup studio.

The 40-year-old manager extended his stay with Everton by signing a new contract that will see the Spaniard remain with the club until 2019. Martinez guided Everton to a fifth-place finish this past season and ensured the club would be a part of European competition for the first time since 2009-2010.

“I am delighted to have been given the opportunity to make a further commitment to Everton,” Martinez said on the club’s official website. “I loved my first season at the Club. I could not be more proud of the way Everton performed throughout the entire season and the memories we were able to make together.

“I am really excited about next season,” added Martinez. “I knew from the moment I arrived at Everton that this was a special place and I’d like to thank everyone associated with the Club, the board, all the staff, the players and our brilliant supporters for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to build on the traditions and success of this great Club.”


Netherlands head coach Louis Van Gaal has decided to start Jonathan De Guzman for Holland’s opener ahead of Jordy Clasie. (REPORT)

Uruguay’s Diego Forlan has been declared fit to play after suffering from a stomach bug. (REPORT)

Argentine midfielder Enzo Perez is set to make a 25 million euro ($34 million) transfer from Benfica to Valencia this summer. (REPORT)

Manchester City’s Alexander Kolarov has signed an extension with the club that will see the player remain with the team until 2018. (REPORT)


What do you think of these reports? Shocked by the Croatian player’s claims? Do you see Chicharito having a negative effect in the locker room? Do you believe Bayern is at fault for Ribery’s injury?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. How sad!. The Refs will eliminate more teams than the run of play again!!!. How bad will the US get screwed this time????

  2. LOL’d at this.

    “He was speaking Japanese but no one could understand him because we don’t have Japanese players.”

  3. After seeing Neymar rewarded for a dive in the Confederations Cup in Brazil and then being praised for the ensuing free kick it was pretty clear that this was coming. Congratulations Brazil.

    • +10

      Been saying it since last year. Maybe Brazil were the best team, maybe they weren’t, but Brazil’s Confed opponents were done no favors from the referees. Some of the referees appeared too intimidated to discipline Brazilian players. Unsurprisingly, that seems to have carried over to the WC.

      Let’s be honest, FIFA can’t afford an early Brazil exit, and it will take the “Hand of God” for them to be eliminated.

  4. Regardless of whether or not the referee spoke english, he clearly favored brazil with his decisions and his decisions were outcome directing.

  5. I don’t see the problem with a ref not speaking English. It might be frustrating but what’s to explain? He called a foul and signaled to the spot. It’s not like an explanation or arguing was going to overturn it. Be pissed about the call.

    • And to be clear, there is no requirement for the referee to explain his decision at any time. The calls may have been bad, but there is no rule requiring him to justify his decision. So I agree, the calls are the issue not the non-explanation. And I agree there should be more discussion about Fred’s ploy.

  6. For everyone focusing on the ref, I will say that the player purposely deceived him by flopping comically. I think the ire should be better directed at Fred, and a policy of harsh punishment for floppers should be implemented. The ref can’t see everything, and tolerating blatant cheating is asking him too much.

    Every ref has fallen for flops, even premier league refs.

    • +1,000 The ref is only a human. The divers have gotten so good! 75% of the blame on lack of instant replay and 25% on diving cheats

      • Um, I would flip it. 75% or more on the cheater, while 25% on the ref CREW. BTW, although the center ref is ultimately responsible, he should be getting help from the ARs. There was an AR on the touchline near the area. There may also have been an AR on the goal line. He could have consulted them, and I’m not sure he did, and if he did, I’m not sure if they saw.

      • Maybe a retroactive red, where he’d miss the next game? I think that could be huge in tournaments like this…especially in the knockout rounds.

    • Fred flopped. There is no question about that. It’s disgraceful, and I wish something could be done retroactively to penalize him.

      However, why does Lovren, who is marking him, have to lay hands on him? That’s a no-no in most circumstances, and defenders that do that inside the 18 are usually rewarded with an attacking player easily going down. Hence, this is why you see defenders either put their hands in the air or behind their back when they are in close proximity to goal.

      It sucks this changed the game, but the ref wasn’t entirely unjustified in calling for a penalty.

    • Thank you Del. Especially from the angle the ref was standing at. He couldn’t see the seperation between Fred & the defender when Fred decided to flop. It’s not the refs fault that he fell for it, players have to be more honest than that. The Croatians are directing their anger at the wrong person.

    • Absolute flops are no-contact. This is embellishment of contact. Fred was having his shirt tugged. He just accentuated it. Where do you plan on drawng the line?

      I want the focus on calls being right as opposed to non-calls being punished. I’m not a fan of simulation calls, and even if you did them I don’t think you should give them to player where there was contact.

      The better resolution of this is the ref missed two actual calls and should have that reflect on future assignments. But the ref called the PK so reversing that to a punishment of Fred is not the sort of second guessing I want the authorities doing.

      • I really don’t like the situation where every tight play in the box is viewed as either a PK plus card or a simulation. I’d prefer most of those situations end up play on, because I think the high drama knife edge approach encourages the very drama people are claiming to want out.

  7. The referee could speak English. You could clearly hear him speaking to the Captains before the game on the coin toss. The cameras caught it. So either Croatia is fabricating the story OR the a-hole ref tried to play dumb by not speaking English. Whatever the case, he made a horrible, horrible decision on the penalty. I would not be surprised to see FIFA say that was his one and only match. They’ve done that in the past in big tournaments.

    • By FIFA regulation, the ref has to be from a neutral confederation. It won’t be the last time in this tournament that people will have complaints about a referee from a weaker confederation officiating a UEFA vs COMNEBOL (sp?) match.

      • Well, now the complaint is that he was handling himself in a linguistically neutral, ie, unapproachable apparently, fashion.

        I’ve had refs in a US league who speak English or Spanish whose MO is they don’t want to talk and will card any attempts to do so. They are emphasizing language but the fact is some refs “run away,” either actually or in the sense they don’t want to hear it but stand there.

      • No, they don’t. Howard Webb was the ref for the final between two European teams in 2010. They just can’t be from either country that is playing. The confederation doesn’t matter.

  8. Not speaking English (or any language that team members can understand) is a problem. But so is having a ref from a smaller league for the opener. You’d think a ref with Champions League or Euro experience would be a better choice. This is one more reason to doubt FIFA’s motivation.

    • Game between a Portuguese diaspora nation and Croats and the complaint is he didn’t speak English?

      You can ref a game just fine with a language difference, what that boils down to is the political element disappears, ref can’t defend himself, player can’t politic for/against calls.

      • Most Non Anglophone speaking European countries have a big population who speak English as a second language. Also in Europe in non anglophone countries English is required to learn. So I am not surprised by them saying this. Also, Croatia has some players who play in England who speak English.

      • I realize that, but “explaining decisions” underlines that what they wanted to do was politic him.

  9. That quote from the Croatian player about the Japanese ref not speaking English is hilarious and troubling. If this is who they picked to ref the lead-off World Cup game it’s going to be a bumpy ride. Someone please confirm that Koman Coulibaly is not in Brazil!

    • I understand the sometimes very weak teams make the cup because they come from very weak confederations. This is done to ensure that teams from all corners of the globe participate, not just the 32 best. However, I don’t understand why referees have to come from every corner of the globe. A lot of refereeing in 2010 was tragic and this is not a good way to start. If half the refs in the cup were Italians (an example of really quality refs) I would not mind as long as they didn’t ref the games from their own country’s group. If that meant that all the refs either came from Europe and South America then I think it’s the lesser of two evils.

  10. Claiming that Neymar’s elbow could have legitimately been straight red taints the rest of the post, even if other criticism is valid.

    • Agree. I don’t claim to be an expert, but when it happened, my wife asked me if the yellow was deserved. I replied that I wouldn’t have carded him at all, but given Croatia the free-kick. Neymar’s elbows got out of control. It happens all the time.

      • I disagree about the Croatia goal being called back. That play on the keeper by Olic gets called everygame. But if you add in the PK, and the foul that led to third goal I would be pissed too.
        What was so crazy to ma about the PK is the ref let it be rough the whole game and then gives a PK when the stiker had no obvious opportunity and was barely touched.

      • After rewatching the play about 10 more times, I have to disagree with you.

        Cesar looks like he’s barely tracking the ball and doesn’t even go for it with his hands. Olic beats Cesar to the ball with his head despite the fact that Cesar should have a height advantage with his arms up. Olic is onside the whole time.

        The goal should 100% counted. Both sides made major goalkeeping errors that led to goals, only 1 was wrongfully called back.

    • How so? He looks right at the Croatian player, raises his arm and rams into the guys head. I am not saying I would have given a straight red but the argument could very easily be made it should be.

    • Mexico is my darkhorse for this group because Croatia and Cameroon seem soft. Croatia put up a decent half fighting but let’s be real, every single goal was by the men in yellow. It’s going to be interesting how the non-Brazil part of the group shakes out because neither Mexico nor Croatia look like goal scoring machines, and unless Mexico beats them outright it may end up being a tiebreaker situation where it matters how many you allow Brazil.

      The Neymar elbow, the Fred flop, I don’t think Croatia was done favors, but once Brazil tied it, it felt like it was going in the direction it did. The rest would be revisionist history.

      • Every single goal by the men in yellow? The official wore red.

        This feels like you already had it written and were determined that an anything but soft Croatia would not dissuade you from posting.

      • 3-1 with the 1 by OG. Brazil scored everything even if you want to haggle about the PK.

        The people who want to talk about the elbow or the soft PK tend to want to discuss the first half where Croatia was competitive and not the second half where they were not.

        I think whether Croatia is scoring their own goals actually matters for the upcoming fixtures with Cameroon and Mexico. Mexico itself has had a struggle scoring.

        Don’t get me wrong, Croatia was strong for a half, and decent for the game, but Brazil also sleepwalked much of the first half in tempo terms. Brazil then outplayed them second half to earn the win, and like I said, Croatia for all its effort wasn’t producing. Their only goal was turned in by Brazil on itself.

    • Complaining about the disallowed goal is even more invalid than saying Neymar should have gotten a straight red. Even watching at home, it was clear that the whistle had blown well beforehand and that at least some of the players had heard it (whatever the call ended up being in that case — maybe that call is really what they are upset about?).

      What’s not as clear here is whether these things taint the post, as reporting just what Croatia says (if that’s what’s being done) is not problematic.

    • you did read the context right? He said an elbow that some are claiming could have been a red. He doesn’t add his thoughts.


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