Bucharest - The Romanian referee in a fateful World Cup play-off between Switzerland and Northern Ireland in November has admitted making a mistake in awarding the Swiss a match-winning penalty.
"It was a sad and not very nice moment for me," Ovidiu Hategan told Romanian television at a gala event for the country's football association this week.
"Sad because I made this mistake and painful because otherwise on our side we had put in a good performance. In the world of refereeing it's the same for goalkeepers: your mistakes get noticed."
Hategan awarded Switzerland a penalty after deeming Corry Evans to have handled inside the area at Windsor Park, although replays clearly showed the ball having struck his shoulder.
Switzerland's Ricardo Rodriguez duly converted and the Swiss won the game 0-1. A goalless return leg draw in Basel saw the Swiss go through 1-0 on aggregate, booking them a place in Russia.
Northern Ireland's dreams of playing in the World Cup for the first time since 1986 were crushed.
Hategan was chosen as Romania's best referee last year by the country's association of professionals and amateurs. But he is not among the 36 referees chosen by FIFA for this summer's World Cup.