TERESOPOLIS, Brazil (AP) — Brazil striker Fred has defended his actions that led to the controversial penalty in the World Cup opener against Croatia, saying he was clearly fouled.
Speaking publicly for the first time after Brazil's 3-1 win over Croatia on Thursday in Sao Paulo, Fred came to the defense of Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura.
"It was a clear penalty," Fred said in a video released by the Brazilian football federation on Friday. "There is no such thing as more penalty or less penalty."
Replays showed there was minimal contact by the Croatian defender before Fred fell, but Nishimura made the call and Neymar converted the 71st-minute penalty to break a 1-1 deadlock and send Brazil on its way to victory.
The Croatians were furious with the decision and said it helped decide the match. Coach Niko Kovac described it as "a robbery" and said the "the whole world saw the big mistake" by the referee. He said that "if that was a penalty, we should be playing basketball. Those kinds of fouls are penalized there."
But Fred said he was brought down by defender Dejan Lovren while trying to make a turn toward goal from inside the area.
"I controlled the ball and was ready to turn when there was a charge on my shoulder," Fred said. "I couldn't reach the ball anymore, lost my balance and fell."
He added: "There was a charge on my left shoulder and that kept me from scoring the goal while I was inside the small area. It was a clear penalty. There were a lot of people saying it wasn't a penalty. But there was a charge and it was enough to pull me away from the ball and keep me from scoring."
Fred didn't talk to reporters after Thursday's match because he was among the players selected for doping tests.
The penalty was widely criticized, mostly against the referee's decision. But France striker Loic Remy said Fred should be "punished" for the way he won the call.
"He does it well, throws himself at the right time because you can see that there's no foul at all. Lovren doesn't pull him back," Remy, who played two seasons with Fred for Lyon, said Friday.
FIFA declined to criticize the call and said Nishimura was in good position to make a decision. Massimo Busacca, head of FIFA's refereeing department, did not say if Nishimura would control more games. He said the game evaluation would be based on 90 minutes, not just one call.
"We are human," Busacca said. "There is not one human in life that is not committing a mistake. It's part of life. The referee lives with this responsibility."
Fred said that FIFA had already warned all the teams that referees would be watchful of players grabbing each other inside the area during the World Cup.
"FIFA sent a refereeing commission to talk to every player in all of the national teams and said that grabbing inside the area wouldn't be allowed and the referees would be calling penalties," he said.
The Brazilian striker stressed that he is "not a player who is falling all the time." He said there was a similar foul against him in Brazil's last warm-up match before the World Cup, against Serbia, but he said he continued the play and was able to score despite being grabbed.
Follow Tales Azzoni at http://twitter.com/tazzoni