Stephen Keshi, the Nigeria coach, has accused Mark Geiger, the USA referee, of being biased after his side were beaten 2-0 by France in Brasilia. A header from Paul Pogba and an own goal from Joseph Yobo secured France a place in the quarter-finals of the World Cup and condemned Nigeria to a defeat that Keshi found hard to accept because of what he described as “a lot of mistakes” from the officials.
Keshi was upset that Emmanuel Emenike had a goal ruled out early in the first half, despite the fact that replays showed the assistant referee had been right to raise his flag for offside.
He went on to complain about a particularly poor challenge from Blaise Matuidi on Ogenyi Onazi that earned the Frenchman a booking and saw the Nigeria midfielder leave the field on a stretcher. He was also unhappy about an incident involving Olivier Giroud, who caught Mikel John Obi with an elbow that went unpunished.
“I am not happy with the officiating because Onazi, on two occasions, he had a very bad tackle and nothing was done by the referee,” Keshi said. “I think the referee was just … for me, I think he was biased. This is the first time I will speak about the referee in my life as a coach but it wasn’t good.
“If you look at the goal we scored, I don’t think there was any infringement. The referee is a human being, bound to make some mistakes, but a lot of mistakes is questionable. I am not happy about it, but he’s the man who decides whatever goes on the pitch.”
Keshi acknowledged that the Nigeria goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama, who has been so impressive in this World Cup, was at fault for the goal that saw Pogba give France the lead 11 minutes from time. “At that moment, it’s only him that can decide the reason he parried the ball,” Keshi said. “I am very far from where he was, his decision is final. What happened happened, and it cost us big.”
For the France manager, Didier Deschamps, the emotions were very different. Four years on from the debacle at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, when Raymond Domenech’s side were eliminated at the group stage and the players went on strike, France stand 90 minutes from a semi-final.
Asked whether getting this far represents a success, Deschamps said: “I would say it’s not a failure. We’ve had some objectives and we increased them because we topped the group and we’ve won the round of 16. We are in a quarter-final and when you look at the recent past of the team, it’s not insignificant. I’m not saying we’re going to win the World Cup but I’m very proud.”