FIFA backs referee

The World Cup faced fresh refereeing controversy on Friday as FIFA chiefs defended Japanese official Yuichi Nishimura after he awarded Brazil a bitterly contested penalty in their opening game victory over Croatia.

Croatia’s coach and players erupted in fury at Nishimura’s decision to award a penalty against defender Dejan Lovren for a foul on Brazilian Fred.

Television replays indicated that Lovren barely touched Fred. Croatian media called it an “inexcusable mistake”.

A top Brazilian newspaper used a front page headline “arigato” -- thank you in Japanese. Social media in Japan lambasted Nishimura’s action, while World Cup players said that more and more of their counterparts would try to get away with such penalties.

FIFA defended Nishimura, but it said no decision had been taken as to whether he will appear in another match at the tournament. FIFA referees chief Massimo Busacca insisted Nishimura had been justified in awarding the spot-kick.

“He had a very good position,” said Busacca, referring to a photo of the incident which appeared to show Lovren’s hands making contact with Fred. “When he saw the hands doing something he makes it (the decision).”

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