Belgrade – Croatia on Monday lamented wasted chances against Spain that cost them elimination from the 2012 Euro, while fuming at the game's German referee.
“Croatia returns home with head held high,” the Vecernji List daily said. Jutarnji List said “Croatia was eliminated by (Spanish striker Jesus) Navas and referee (Wolfgang) Stark.”
Croatia conceded the decisive goal in the final moments of their final group C match and departed the tournament with Ireland, while Spain and Italy advanced to the quarter-finals.
Coach Slaven Bilic, who had announced before the start of the tournament that he would be leaving to coach Lokomotiv Moscow after six years with the national side, said his players “had to hit wide open shots,” but also blasted the refereeing as “poor.”
“Croatia had a sub-par edition of the world champions in check until the 88th minute ... it threatened, attacked, but then Navas stepped in and destroyed the dreams of the quarter-finals,” Vecernji said.
Most commentators argued that Stark had failed to award at least one penalty to the Croats, while player Vedran Corluka called him a “blind man.”
“We were robbed,” he was quoted as saying.
The Dinamo Zagreb president and one of the most influential people in Croatian football, Zdravko Mamic, wrote in his Euro column for Vecernji that Stark had shaped the match with the intent of helping Spain.
“I feel this helpless fury because I saw intent, these were not accidental mistakes,” he said. “Stark doubtlessly saved Spain from elimination and ripped us off.” – Sapa-dpa