Soccer-Colombia want referee axed after ball hits him before goal

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Copa America 2021 - Group B - Brazil v Colombia - Estadio Nilton Santos, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - June 23, 2021 Colombia's Miguel Borja remonstrates with referee Nestor Pitana REUTERS/Sergio Moraes/File Photo

(Reuters) - The Colombian Football Federation (FCF) has asked Copa America organizers to suspend the referee from their 2-1 defeat by Brazil, saying he prejudiced the result by not halting play when the ball hit him in the lead up to a goal.

Nestor Pitana, the Argentine who refereed the 2018 World Cup final, waved play on when the ball bounced off him outside Colombia's box and Brazil continued passing for Roberto Firmino to head in an equalizer.

Rubbing salt into the wound, long protests by Colombian players led to an added 10 minutes of stoppage time, with the home side netting a winner in the 100th minute.

Colombia had lead after 10 minutes through Luis Diaz.

"Even the VAR (Video Assistant Referee) indicated to the referee that the pass from the Brazilian player that rebounded off the referee was going to a Colombian player," the Colombian federation complained. It urged South American Football Confederation CONMEBOL to suspend the match officials.

CONMEBOL took the unusual step of publicizing the conversations between Pitana and the VAR officials on Thursday.

The organization said that the incident "did not lead to a promising attack" and so play should not have been stopped.

Even though they lost, Colombia still qualified for the last eight of the tournament, along with Brazil.

The Copa America features 10 South American teams and ends on July 10 with the final in Rio de Janeiro.

(Reporting by Andrew Downie; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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