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Croatia outraged over controversial penalty that turned World Cup opener for Brazil

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Croatia's Luka Modric, right, sits on the ground after being fouled by Brazil's Neymar, left, during the group A World Cup soccer match between Brazil and Croatia, the opening game of the tournament, in the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, June 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

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Croatia's Luka Modric, right, sits on the ground after being fouled by Brazil's Neymar, left, during the group A World Cup soccer match between Brazil and Croatia, the opening game of the tournament, in the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, June 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

SAO PAULO - Organizers may as well give the World Cup to Brazil right now, according to Croatia's Dejan Lovren, after the defender found himself at the centre of a penalty controversy in his team's 3-1 defeat to the host nation Thursday.

Brazil striker Fred went down in the penalty area under slight contact from Lovren in the 71st minute, allowing Neymar to convert a spot kick that gave Brazil a decisive 2-1 lead in Thursday's tournament opener.

Lovren said referee Yuichi Nishimura's decision was a "big shame" and that "if it is like this, then we can give the World Cup directly to Brazil.

"Of course I am angry. I want to cry now but what can you do?" he told reporters. "If you look at the game I think you saw everything. So I don't need to explain."

Criticism of Nishimura's penalty award was shared by Croatia coach Niko Kovac, whose team continues its Group A campaign against Cameroon on Wednesday.

"It was a wrong decision by the referee," Kovac said. "I think that the whole world saw the big mistake."

Midfielder Ivan Rakitic added: "This was a great game by both teams and it's a pity it was spoiled by a bad referee decision."

Other Croatia players said they were pleased with their performance while expressing anger about the officiating.

Defender Vedran Corluka described the penalty as "embarrassing."

"I think that when it was 1-1 in the second half we were quite in control of the game and after he gave the penalty it changed the game," Corluka told The Associated Press. "I congratulate Brazil, but I don't think they deserved to win today."

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Follow Heller on Twitter @aronhellerap

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