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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 June, 2004, 21:31 GMT 22:31 UK
Baric critical of officials

Croatia coach Otto Baric accused the referees of looking after the bigger nations after their battling 2-2 draw with reigning champions France.

"My feeling is that the referees in this tournament are protecting the stronger teams a little bit," he said.

"I think both goals came from mistakes that went unpunished.

"I am very satisfied with how we played against one of the strongest teams in Europe. This team deserved at least a draw but mostly it deserved a win."

Baric thought Danish referee Kim Milton Nielsen had missed a handball by French striker David Trezeguet in scoring their equalising goal.

"It is hard to talk about the referee, especially as the coach of one of the 'outsider' teams," added Baric.

Man-of-the-match Dado Prso backed his coach's feelings.

Unfortunately, we have been declared as a dirty team
Croatia striker Dado Prso
"I think the referee was not too kind too us," he stated. "There were French fouls leading to their goals and it was a handball for their equaliser.

"I think as the match went on we grew in stature and deserved our point.

"This is the first time Croatia has taken a point off France in official competition.

"I think the next time we may win."

Baric defended his side's play, despite picking up nine bookings in two games. They had five in their opening draw against Switzerland.

"Half the cards against Switzerland were incorrect," he said. "Unfortunately, we have been declared as a dirty team."

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