Croatia’s players are refusing to talk to World Cup reporters after photos were published of them bathing nude in the team’s swimming pool, their coach, Niko Kovac, said on Sunday.
Two photographers hid in the nearby bushes and took the pictures which were published by online media.
"I can’t force them to be at your disposal after what you have done to them and their families," an angry Kovac told reporters in the team’s Praia do Forte training base.
"How would you feel if someone took naked pictures of you? They are adamant that they won’t speak to you lot any more and I don’t know whether the silence will end tomorrow or last until the end of our World Cup campaign.
Croatia: Group A team profile
Croatia: Group A team profile
1/4 How they qualified
Croatia fell back after an impressive start to their World Cup qualifying campaign. A stuttering climax saw them sneak into second spot by two points. Five wins and a draw from their opening six matches appeared to have the Balkan team well-placed to claim an automatic berth as group winners. But one point from an available twelve in their next four matches – including defeats both home and away by Scotland - saw Igor Stimac’s men fall nine points short of Belgium in top spot. Stimac was later relieved of his duties before Croatia faced Iceland across two legs to determine which nation would qualify for the World Cup. Despite failing to break down 10-man Iceland in a stalemate away from home, the Croats mustered a 2-0 victory in the return leg to secure their passage to next summer’s tournament.
Niko Kovac is a former Croatia international and he represented his country at various major tournaments across the last decade before he retired in 2009 calling for priority to be placed on youth over experience. Despite only stepping in to see Croatia through the World Cup play-off double-header against Iceland in November, many supporters saw the 42-year-old as the true mastermind of the nation’s qualification to the World Cup in Brazil. Kovac was appointed to the position on October 16 after his predecessor Igor Stimac was sacked following a disappointing campaign. Indeed, Croatia laboured towards a decisive play-off rather than forcing a battle for the automatic berth with eventual group-winners Belgium.
3/4 Star player
Mario Mandzukic’s attitude has been called into question on more than one occasion across his playing career but his ability to convert chances cannot be questioned. Mandzukic complements his strength in aerial battles with an accomplished right foot. Despite Croatia’s failure to advance past the groups stages at Euro 2012, the 27-year-old was the tournament’s joint top scorer with three goals. After opening the scoring in Croatia’s World Cup play-off victory over Iceland, the Bayern Munich forward was dismissed for an outrageous lunge on opposing winger Johann Gudmundsson. The horror tackle leaves Mandzukic sidelined for the first group game in Brazil and could compromise the nation’s chance of progression to the last 16.
4/4 How they will line up (4-4-1-1):
Pletikosa; Srna, Ćorluka, Lovren, Pranjić; Perišić, Modric, Rakitić, Olić; Kovacic, Mandzukic
"I respect my players’ opinion and I also know that you have done a very professional job so far but you blew it with this one. The whole world has seen the photos."
Croatia play Cameroon in the hot and humid Amazon city of Manaus on Wednesday in what is a must-win game for both sides after the Croatians lost their opening Group A match to hosts Brazil 3-1 while the Africans were beaten 1-0 by Mexico.