June 13, 2014
By Michael Lewis
SOME OPENING LESSONS
U.S. players learn from referee's call in Brazil win
Big Apple Soccer Editor
SAO PAULO, Brazil - Brazil's 3-1 win over Croatia in the World Cup opener Thursday served as a warning and a reminder to the United States on how quickly a game could turn on a referee's decision, even if it wasn't the correct one.
|"I think itís a lesson that some of us learned just by watching," said USA defender Matt Besler of the penalty call that let Brazil tie the score against Croatia on Thursday.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Case in point: referee Yuichi Nishimura's controversial call with the game tied at 1-1 in the 69th minute. Brazilian striker Fred went down in the penalty area on minimal contact by Croatian defender Dejan Lovren and the hosts were awarded a penalty. Neymar converted the ensuing penalty for his second goal of the match.
For Sporting Kansas City center back Matt Besler it was a warning that calls like that could happen in U.S. matches. The Americans kick off their World Cup against Ghana in Natal on Monday.
"As a defender, that was a tough one to see, but it was a good one to see,"Besler said. "I think itís a lesson that some of us learned just by watching. Itís going to be called tight in the penalty box, so weíve got to be careful."
Right back DeAndre Yedlin felt the call was part of the game.
"For a defender, it seems to always be a penalty," he said. "But thatís just the way it goes. The ref made the call so that was brutal for them.Ē
Indeed it was.
"Youíre always going to try to get an advantage," Yedlin said. "You always want to win, so any way you can get the advantage then youíre going to do that. Whatever he did, whether he dove, it got him the call and got the win.Ē
Goalkeeper Tim Howard definitely felt it was a blown call.
"Referees have to get these things right," he said. "I donít agree with it, but thatís not going to help Croatia. Iíve always said, any team Iím on, if we feel contact in the box go down. Thatís not our responsibility. Itís the refereeís job to get it right. Itís a tough job."
A few days prior to the tournament, referees with international experience visited all of the teams and reminded the players of the rules.
"Some rules would be hot," midfielder Jermaine Jones said. "They already say that we have to watch out with the hands in the box and on corner kicks. Especially with me with yellow cards he said. We know the rules and we have to be careful."
The players had varying reactions to the game.
Besler just about felt the ground shake when the hosts scored in the second half at Arena Corinthians, about 10 miles from the U.S. team hotel.
"It really felt like this whole thing kicked off," he said. "I was up in my room for the second half, and I heard the entire city of Sao Paulo roar and it gave me chills. The energy of the country, itís finally here."
He fell asleep during the match while he watched with the rest of the team.
"I was sleeping on the sofa so I donít know where everyone was," he said. "I dozed off, saw most of it."
Jones certainly understood what it meant for the 35-year-old Howard, the senior member of the team.
"We train hard and Timmy's a little bit older, so you have to see," he said.