Dzeko, Bosnia go home disappointed
Bosnia-Herzegovina are set to exit the World Cup after losing their second Group F match 1-0 to Nigeria, and star striker Edin Dzeko had harsh words for referee Peter O'Leary.
The New Zealand official wrongly disallowed a first-half Dzeko goal and then allowed a disputed Nigeria winner from Peter Odemwingie to stand.
"What happened?" said Dzeko to reporters at Cuiaba's Arena Pantanal. "The referee happened. I think we are going home, we are sad because of that but the referee should go home too, because he changed the result, he changed the game, and that's why we lost."
In the build-up to Odemwingie's goal, captain Emir Spahic claimed he was fouled by Nigeria striker Emmanuel Emenike, though television pictures suggested that Spahic had thrown an elbow in the clash between the pair.
"We tried to come back after the goal where there was obviously a foul on our captain and before when I scored a goal it was not offside," said Dzeko. "We fight until the end, but we didn't have our luck today."
After two defeats in two matches, Bosnia's first visit to the finals will be completed with their third match against Iran in Salvador. The Asian team have a hope of qualification, as Nigeria, on four points play Argentina at the same time on Wednesday. Nigeria need a point to qualify.
"I don't want to comment on the goal," said Bosnia coach Safet Susic. "I was told in the dressing room that Dzeko was onside, well onside. It was clear. As far as the reported foul on Spahic, if the ref didn't whistle, there was no foul."
The Bosnians did not play to the level that they displayed against Argentina last Sunday in Rio and paid the price. Dzeko had two late efforts saved by Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, but prior to that, Nigeria had looked comfortable.
"He's hurting like all the other lads," goalkeeper Asmir Begovic told reporters of Dzeko's post-match mood. "We're disappointed for him. He lives and dies by his goals. When he doesn't score it's difficult. He tried, he worked really hard. We tried to give him as many chances as we could. I guess it wasn't working for the whole team going forward today."
"In the first game we did everything, and Argentina beat us, but today we should have won this game," said Dzeko. "Nigeria played good as well, but the referee was shameful for this competition."
The European team noticeably suffered in the hot conditions of the central South American city and a pitch on which the ball did not appear to run truly.
"I don't want to find excuses," said Susic "We are a technically skillful team and we can offer more on a good pitch. It was maybe an impediment for scoring more goals, for us and Nigeria."
Nigeria hopes may rest on Bosnia getting a result from Iran, and Dzeko promised Nigerian journalists that his team would give their best in Salvador.
"We know that we are not going into the next round, but we will try to do our best in the next game," said the Manchester City striker.
After the joy of making a first finals in their short footballing history -- they played their first match after independence in 1995 -- Bosnia-Herzegovina will return to Europe in disappointment.
"We've given it all in our two games, tried everything," continued Begovic. "We lacked a bit of luck and Nigeria were maybe just a bit better than us today. We give them congratulations. It's not ideal to be going home after two games. That wasn't our plan. But we have to learn from this and hopefully be a better team going forward."
John Brewin is a staff writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JohnBrewinESPN.