Bosnia-Hercegovina were sent packing from the World Cup on Saturday, and striker Edin Dzeko laid the blame for their first round exit on the “shameful” referee in charge of the 1-0 loss to Nigeria in Cuiaba.
The Group F fixture was played out in stamina-sapping tropical conditions but Dzeko´s blood was boiling not from the clammy 30 degree temperature, but because of his first half goal disallowed for offside.
Replays showed that New Zealand referee Peter O´Leary and his line judge had got this decision wrong, with the Manchester City star clearly onside.
His fellow English Premier League player, Stoke City´s Peter Odemwingie, gave Nigeria the decisive goal shortly after, which left the pointless tournament debutants heading home after their closing game against Iran next Wednesday.
Before boarding the team bus at the Arena Pantanal a disconsolate Dzeko, who hit the woodwork in stoppage time, vented his spleen against what he perceived as the massive injustice O´Leary had inflicted on the Balkan side.
“Not only for the contentious ruling on his “goal”, but also for what the Bosnians felt was a foul by Nigeria´s Emmanuel Emenike on their captain Emir Spahic before his assist to Odemwingie for the decisive strike.
Asked what had happened Dzeko railed: “The referee happened.
“We are going home, we are sad because of that but the referee should go home too, because he changed the result, he changed the game, and that’s why we lost.
“We tried to come back after the goal where there was obviously a foul on our captain and before when I scored a goal it was not offside.
“We fight until the end, but we didn’t have our luck today.
¨In the first game we did everything, and Argentina beat us, but today we should have won this game.
“Nigeria played good as well, but the referee was shameful for this competition.¨
Sejad Salihovic echoed Dzeko´s take on the game-changing ruling, the Hoffenheim captain saying: “What can you do?
“He (Dzeko) was one metre onside. I have no clue what the linesman was seeing. If we were leading 1-0, they (Nigeria) would have had to chase us.¨
Dzeko´s fellow striker Vedad Ibisevic said elimination “hurt a lot”.
“We wanted to get through the group stage,” the Stuttgart striker added.
Bosnia coach Safet Susic was more circumspect in his reaction to secondary school biology teacher O´Leary´s performance and this second successive loss in Brazil after their opening 2-1 defeat to Argentina.
“I was told there was no offside but it’s not the first or the last time a referee has made a mistake at this World Cup or elsewhere and it won’t be the last.
“We hit the woodwork in stoppage time, and if that had gone in and we’d been allowed that goal that would have changed the course of the match.
“But I don’t have any recriminations, the players are all depressed and silent.”
On the reasons for this tournament-ending reverse the former world class attacking midfielder reflected: “If our best players play at their best level we can beat anyone, if they don’t play at their best then we can’t.
¨It was terrible weather, very hot and humid, and a bad pitch. Nigeria were good rivals – that’s why we lost.¨
Now Susic has the difficult job of picking up his demoralised squad up for the inconsequential closer against Iran.
“We know that we are not going into the next round, but we will try to do our best in the next game,” pledged Dzeko.