Whangarei schoolteacher Peter O'Leary is public enemy No 1 in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as the World Cup debutantes yesterday blamed their early exit on New Zealand's top referee.
Bosnia's Edin Dzeko described O'Leary's performance as ''shameful,'' after the star striker's goal was wrongfully disallowed for offside in the 21st minute at Cuiaba's Arena Pantanal.
Nigeria went on to win the group F game 1-0, ending the war-torn nation's dreams of advancing to the knockout stages.
Replays confirmed Dzeko was onside, but linesman Mark Rule - a Palmerston North podiatrist - raised his flag and O'Leary backed the judgement of his fellow Kiwi official.
''I'm sure he'll [Rule] be disappointed with that decision,'' said NZ Football's referee development manager Ken Wallace.
''But overall, his performance, I'm sure he'll be happy with it. He was in good position. In that situation you go with the assistant referee. It was a really tight decision.''
Auckland assistant referee Jan-Hendrik Hintz also felt the wrath of Bosnia captain Emir Spahic yesterday.
Spahic felt he was fouled in the build-up to Peter Odemwingie's winning goal.
Wallace said he was yet to speak to the Kiwi trio of officials.
''They're sort of in lockdown. I got an email from them and Peter was happy with his game, he did well. He said he was happy with his decisions, he was happy with the penalty decisions. He was good.''
O'Leary was just the second New Zealander to referee a World Cup game, following Michael Hester in 2010.
Rule was a late call-up for Brazil after O'Leary's original assistant, Ravinesh Kumar, got injured.
After the game, Dzeko was asked what happened to Bosnia's campaign.
''The referee happened,'' the Manchester City man said.
''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. The referee was shameful for this competition.''
Bosnia coach Safet Susic was also fuming, saying his players were ''depressed, disappointed, silent in the dressing room.''
''I was told there was no offside but it's not the first or last time a referee has made a bad decision at this World Cup and it won't be the last,'' the 59-year-old said.
''Had they allowed the goal, this would probably have changed the match. I was told in the dressing room that Dzeko was well onside. As far as the reported foul on Spahic, if the referee didn't whistle there was no foul.''
It is unclear whether O'Leary, Rule and Hintz will feature again in the tournament.
Refereeing appointments are made just two days in advance of games, with World Cup performances taken into account.
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