The Croatia captain, Darijo Srna, has hit out at Wolfgang Stark following his side's group stage exit from Euro 2012. He accused referees of not respecting the smaller nations and insisted Spain would have been given the penalties that Croatia were denied. The Croatian defender has also warned that the Spanish will have to change their game if they are to defend their title having created "nothing" in the final group game.
Croatia were denied two possible penalties in their 1-0 defeat to Spain. The first came when Sergio Ramos made a studs-up challenge on Mario Mandzukic in the first half. Then, in the dying seconds, Sergio Busquets got away with a tug on Vedran Corluka. Croatia were trailing 1-0 at the time, following Jesús Navas's 88th-minute goal. A 1-1 draw would have put them through. Iker Casillas had prevented Spain from going a goal down near the hour with a close-range save from Ivan Rakitic's header and Srna insisted that Croatia had deserved more.
Srna said: "We played better than Spain, but the referee refused to give us two penalties. We played so well. I can feel that they don't respect us. Croatia in the last six years has been among the best 10 teams in Europe. It's not respect.
"If they had the same situations for Spain, they would give a penalty. We can't change anything but it's not nice when someone doesn't respect you."
Asked if that would be a problem for teams in upcoming games at Euro 2012, Srna replied: "For smaller teams, yes. For bigger teams, no." What, then, could smaller nations do? "Get Croatian referees!" Srna said.
Casillas admitted after the game that it had been a match of "nerves", while Fernando Torres praised Croatia, noting that they had played an "intelligent" game in which they kept Spain's midfielders at a distance, denying them space. Perhaps the performance provided a blueprint for Spain's future opponents.
"Ah," said Srna, "but then we forget about the referee!
"I think after this game Spain have to change the way they play if they want to win the Euros. Spain play tik-tak-tik-tak but they created nothing. They had one chance at the end which was maybe offside, and they scored the goal. They won the World Cup and the last Euros with quality. But they played a big team tonight and one mistake can decide the game."
This was Slaven Bilic's last game in charge of Croatia and the response was an emotional one. Srna's eyes were red as he spoke. "I want to thank everyone, my coach and all my team-mates, for everything we've done in the last six years," he said. "It's a very difficult moment for Croatia. We go home – but we don't deserve that. We must look to the future. Now, everything begins from the start again. It's a new season with our clubs, a new qualification for [the World Cup in] Brazil.
"We are tired but everybody has seen the kind of power that we play with for our country."