ZURICH (AP) — GENEVA (AP) — FIFA has banned Croatian defender Josip Simunic for 10 games — including the entire World Cup — for leading fans in a pro-Nazi chant after the team qualified for next year's tournament in Brazil.
Simunic invoked a World War II-era slogan used by Croatia's then-puppet regime following a 2-0 playoff victory against Iceland last month.
"After taking into account all of the circumstances of the case, and particularly given the gravity of the incident, the committee decided to suspend the player for 10 official matches," FIFA said in a statement.
Michel Platini, president of the Union of European Football Associations, described Croatian fans as the worst behaved at the 2012 European Championship.
The sanction reflected FIFA's commitment to harsher sanctions for racism and discrimination at matches.
Croatian coach Niko Kovac, a teammate of Simunic at the 2006 World Cup, said the ban probably ended the 35-year-old defender's national team career.
"I'm unpleasantly surprised, shocked and disappointed by FIFA's ban of Simunic," Kovac said. "I'm primarily sad for Simunic who will miss the World Cup. I know him for long as a player and a person and I'm sure he did not want to offend anyone."
Kovac said Croatia's soccer federation will appeal to FIFA. If that fails, a challenge at the Court of Arbitration for Sport could follow.
Croatia hosted Iceland in Zagreb on Nov. 19 for a decisive qualifying match after a 0-0 tie in the first leg.
After the match, Simunic took a microphone on the field and shouted to supporters: "For the homeland!" The fans responded: "Ready!"