(Reuters) – Serbia players could not hear their fans over the incessant din of vuvuzelas, had trouble controlling the World Cup ball and lost their concentration to give away a ‘stupid’ penalty and lose 1-0 to Ghana.
That was the verdict of the dejected-looking players as they traipsed past reporters, having to keep answering questions about why Sunday’s Group D opener had gone wrong for them.
Their coach Radomir Antic had a different gripe, saying Aleksandar Lukovic’s dismissal for a second yellow in the 74th minute had been too harsh and had turned the game.
Nine minutes after that setback, substitute Zdravko Kuzmanovic’s raised arm struck a ball hit across the area to give away the penalty that put Ghana ahead and triggered wild celebrations from the already noisy African crowd.
“I think that it is not easy to control the ball in the air,” defender Nemanja Vidic told reporters when asked if the ball had contributed to the penalty because it looked as if Kuzmanovic had thought it would fly over him.
Many players have criticized the ball, branding it a “beachball,” “inadequate” and like one purchased in a supermarket among other complaints.
“It’s very quick, more in the air than at the feet. I think if the ball hits the ground you get good control. But all the teams have problems with the ball so it is not an excuse,” added Vidic.
Apart from the ball, players are also having to get used to the noisy vuvuzelas, which do not stop during a match and create a constant racket unlike anything heard at matches on other continents.
“Because of the vuvzelas we couldn’t hear the Serbian fans,” forward Marko Pantelic told reporters.
“Our fans were cheering but the only noise was the vuvuzelas.”
Defender Bransilav Ivanovic said they had lost concentration to give away the penalty, which Danko Lazovic said was “stupid,” while Serbia were knocked off their stride by Lukovic’s sending off before that.
“The sending off of Lukovic was too harsh and it turned the match their way,” Antic told a news conference.
“In a tight match like this a simple error by Kuzmanovic made the difference but I have no complaints about my team’s effort.”
(Additional reporting by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Nigel Hunt)