Fans in tears after Croatia go down to Brazil

Croatian fans were saddened and disappointed after their national team, known as the ‘Fiery Ones’ (Vatreni), was defeated 3-1 in the World Cup openning match by hosts Brazil late on Thursday.

Thousands of fans watched the match on cafe terraces in towns and cities across Croatia. A thunderstorm that hit the Croatian capital just before the match chased away many fans, but thousands of supporters still gathered at the Zagreb’s main square.

Nearly all were dressed in Croatia’s distinctive red and white squared shirts as they watched the match on a 52-square-metre screen above an improvised stage.

“It’s a pity, the referee ruined us!” said a bitter Goran Vlahic, 28, as he was leaving the square with his girlfriend.

He was referring to Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura’s dubious decision to award a penalty in the second half after Fred backed into Dejan Lovren and fell over.

Vlahic echoed the view of many fans, and national team coach Niko Kovac included, that the referee was making “bizarre decisions” to Croatia’s detriment.

“If that was a penalty then we should not play football anymore!” Kovac told Croatian state-run HRT television. “It’s shameful. We did our best... I’m disappointed,” he emphasised.The Croatian papers labelled the clash the “biggest match in Croatia’s history” and the whole country has been gripped by World Cup fever.

Cafes have installed new TV screens on terraces and been redecorated in red and white chequerboard patterns. There were live broadcasts in the main squares of big towns and cities.  Giant posters of the Croatian team stare out from shop windows in the capital Zagreb, especially midfielder Luka Modric and striker Mario Manduzkic. 

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