World Cup chit-chat: Brazil's Fred denies diving claims to win penalty
Brazil striker Fred has denied accusations he cheated to win a crucial penalty in the 3-1 opening World Cup win over Croatia and said contact from a defender was enough to "knock me off the ball and stop me scoring."
Fred went down in the 69th minute of the Group A match on Thursday with the score 1-1. Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura immediately pointed to the spot, incensing the Croatian players, and Neymar converted the kick.
"It was a clear penalty, there's no such thing as a more penalty or a less penalty," Fred told the Brazilian Football Confederation's TV channel on Friday.
"I controlled the ball and was about to turn, I got a hit on my shoulder, I lost control of the ball, I lost my balance and I fell," he added.
"I am not a player who throws himself to the ground.
"I see lots of people saying it wasn't a penalty but there was contact and it was enough to knock me off the ball and stop me scoring.
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Image: Fred of Brazil sits on the field gesturing for a foul against Dejan Lovren of Croatia during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match on Thursday
Photographs: Christopher Lee/Getty Images
FIFA referee chief defends contentious penalty in World Cup opener
Meanwhile, FIFA's head of refereeing defended the experienced Japanese official.
Massimo Busacca, in charge of refereeing for world soccer's ruling body, told reporters in Rio De Janeiro that Nishimura's decision appeared to be justified.
"The referee was in a very good position," he said of the 42-year-old match official.
Busacca said a photograph of the incident showed there was contact between the two players in the penalty box, and that Dejan Lovren touched Fred not only with his left hand but also his right.
"If you make contact you permit the referee to go in one direction," he added.
Busacca declined so say whether Nishimura would officiate at other matches during the World Cup, as he and his team had yet to make a full analysis of the referee's performance over the full duration of the opening game.
When one reporter suggested that Nishimura's decision was a mistake, Busacca replied: "A mistake? It's your opinion and I'll let you think it if you want."
Nishimura showed Felipe Melo a red card as Brazil crashed out of the World Cup quarter-finals in 2010, effectively ending Brazil's hopes of coming back from 2-1 down and their dreams of a sixth world title.
Fierce debate over refereeing decisions was unlikely to end with Nishimura's intervention.
One of the main talking points after Friday's game between Mexico and Cameroon at a rain-soaked Dunas arena in Natal was the officiating, after two Giovani dos Santos efforts were controversially disallowed in the first half.
Mexico went on to win 1-0, however, thanks to a Oribe Peralta goal.
FIFA is using goal-line technology for the first time at this World Cup, and FIFA president Sepp Blatter this week suggested introducing a television referral system allowing managers to challenge up to two refereeing decisions per match.
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Image: Massimo Busacca
Photographs: David Ramos/Getty Images
FIFA probe Argentina for Falklands protest
Football world governing body FIFA said on Friday it had begun disciplinary proceedings against Argentina's football association due to a players' protest over the Falkland Islands at a World Cup warm-up game.
At last week's home friendly against Slovenia in La Plata, the Argentina team stood behind a banner proclaiming sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, or Malvinas as South Americans know them, in a long-running dispute with Britain.
"Las Malvinas Son Argentinas," or "The Malvinas Are Argentine", read the large poster displayed on the pitch before Argentina's 2-0 win.
"FIFA can confirm that disciplinary proceedings have been opened today," the world body said, referring to an "apparent breach" of two regulations referring to "prevention of provocative and aggressive actions" and "team misconduct."
"The Argentina FA has been invited to provide its position to the FIFA Disciplinary Committee, together with any documentary evidence it might deem appropriate," it added in a statement.
Britain has controlled the South Atlantic archipelago, home to about 3,000 people, since 1833 and went to war with Argentina in 1982 to repel an invasion. That resulted in the deaths of 255 British and about 650 Argentine soldiers.
The dispute has given a political edge to Argentina-England football clashes over the years, most famously in 1986 when Diego Maradona said his two goals against England in the Mexico World Cup finals were revenge for the Falklands war.
Calls to Argentine football officials in Brazil went unanswered, and there was no immediate response to FIFA's announcement on the national association's web site.
Current President Cristina Fernandez has revived nationalist sentiment over the Falklands in recent years, mounting a vocal campaign to renegotiate sovereignty and prevent London-listed oil and gas firms from drilling near the islands.
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Image: The Argentina team warms up during a training session at Cidade do Galo
Photographs: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Bayern doctor says Ribery could have played in World Cup
France's Franck Ribery could have been fit for the World Cup, Bayern Munich's doctor Hans-Wilhelm Mueller-Wohlfahrt said on Friday as he rejected French claims it was his treatment that ruled the winger out.
Ribery was dropped from the France squad days before the tournament started after failing to recover from a back injury that had troubled him towards the end of the season.
"He (Ribery) was evidently told not to be treated by Mueller-Wohlfahrt," said a statement issued through the lawyers of the German doctor, who is at the finals in Brazil for his country's national team.
"He (Mueller-Wohlfahrt) assumes that had he (Ribery) been treated there would have been the possibility for him to play at the World Cup."
France team doctor Franck Le Gall had said on Thursday that Ribery played as a substitute in the German Cup final on May 17 with pain-killing injections despite having suffered from back trouble for several weeks.
"Franck belongs to a club whose method of treatment for all ailments, whatever they might be, is based on injections," Le Gall said in a strong indictment of the Bundesliga champions.
"He (Ribery) had suffered from lumbago for several weeks. Despite that, he was lined up for the German Cup final,” Le Gall told a news conference at France’s World Cup base.
"We could have chosen to inject him, which we didn’t. At a certain moment he’d had enough of (injections), so we didn’t do that because he’s afraid of jabs."
Bayern's German doctor responded that Ribery was not afraid of injections and his treatment was not solely based on them.
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Image: Franck Ribery
Photographs: David Rogers/Getty Images
Eto'o defends himself in open letter
Cameroon captain Samuel Eto'o defended himself on Friday over his role in the squad's pre-World Cup strike action in the wake of blistering criticism back home, including media allegations of "treason".
In an open letter to the Cameroon people, Eto'o said last weekend’s strike – which included refusing to accept a symbolic flag from the prime minister and delaying their departure for Brazil by almost a day in a haggle over World Cup money – was a search for "improvements that will benefit future generations".
"I fought for what I believe to be legitimate: the right of my team mates for their bonuses so that they can give the best of themselves for their country," said Eto'o ahead of Cameroon's opening Group A match against Mexico in Natal on Friday.
He was at the forefront of a torrid pre-World Cup weekend which saw the players snub Prime Minister Philemon Yang and then refuse to get on their expensively-chartered airline for Brazil.
"There have been misunderstandings, certainly. However, we are satisfied with a happy end. We hope that all those who were offended by our insistence are able to forgive us," Eto'o, 33, added in the letter distributed to reporters on Friday.
This week the Cameroon media turned on their favourite footballing son with one newspaper editorial accusing him of “high treason”.
They were particularly piqued by the refusal of the players to take a giant flag from Yang at the end of Saturday’s warm-up win over Moldova in Yaounde.
While the players refused to come out of the changing room, Cameroon’s German coach Volker Finke went to accept it instead.
Eto'o's international achievements – he is a record-breaking four-time African Footballer of the Year and has three Champions League winners' medals – have made him an almost untouchable icon in the central African country but unprecedented criticism in recent days has obviously touched him.
Cameroon's players were supposed to fly to Brazil on Sunday but refused to leave their hotel until they were given an extra five million CFA Francs ($10,300) each on top of the 50 million already paid.
Arguments over money ahead of major tournaments has become almost commonplace for Cameroon's squad with Eto’o previously cast in the role of protector of his team mates from the greed of officialdom.
In late 2011, Eto’o was banished from the squad for eight months for leading a strike that saw a sold-out international against Algeria cancelled because Cameroon's players refused to play until they received promised payments.
Image: Cameroon's captain Samuel Eto'o, right, controls the ball during a team practice session
Photographs: Dylan Martinez/Reuters