Just one match in the books and the 2014 FIFA World Cup already has its first refereeing controversy.
Referee Yuichi Nishimura hasn’t always been a friend of Brazil but on Thursday in the opening game of the tournament, he gifted the host nation the winning goal in it`s 3-1 victory over Croatia.
It would be an understatement to assert that Nishimura’s decision to award Brazil a penalty kick for Dejan Lovren`s foul on Fred was surprising and undeserved.
“If that’s a penalty, then we can just stop playing football right now,” said Croatia manager Niko Kovac after the match. “It’s shameful we talk about respect but there wasn’t any respect for Croatia. If that’s how we start the World Cup, then we might as well give up and go home now.”
He also made no friends among Croatian fans who went into the opening match with high hopes of gaining a result but in the end had their hopes dashed by Nishimura’s gaffe.
Judge for yourself with this YouTube Post:
Brazil’s Fred cleverly positioned himself in the six-yard box with his back to Nishimura who trailed several yards behind the play.
A master at drawing fouls, he took the most obvious of dives, falling to the ground with little or no contact from Lovren.
A huge roar went up from the home crowd in Sao Paulo.
Nishimura fell for the ploy hook, line and sinker. He made no hesitation in pointing to the spot. As he prepared to spot the ball the referee was swarmed by disbelieving Croatian players protesting the call.
Nishimura then booked a bewildered Lovren for the foul and the rest is history as Brazil stole the show.
“I can hardly hold back the tears,” the Southampton defender told the The Guardian “Why don’t they just hand out the trophy to Brazil right away?”
Croatia captain Darijo Srna didn’t mince words about the call either.
“It’s hard to stay cool-headed after a defeat like that. We expected the referee to be biased, but not like this.” said Srna. “You know, they always tell us about fair play, the refs even hold meetings with us captains about that – and then they do this.”
Immediately following the decision social media lit up with responses to Nishimura’s call including this artists rendition of Brazil’s reaction:
The soccer media also quickly weighed in on the decision with most slamming it. Former English Premier League referee Graham Poll tweeted his disapproval of the call moments after Nishimura pointed to the spot:
“Very soft penalty. People say big teams get the big decisions. That’s a prime example. Not a penalty for me….”
In Croatia, the national media was dominated by reaction to the call on Friday morning.
“Croatian supporters - sheep sheared by FIFA,” trumpeted the index.hr website.
Meanwhile in Argentina - Brazil’s fiercest rivals - the press also slammed the decision with the newspaper Ole leading with the headline Nashimura “Are you ashamed?”
The controversial call was tinged with irony, since it was Nishimura who ended Brazil`s World Cup dream when he sent off Melo in a quarter-final match against the Netherlands at South Africa 2010.
There is no question the call can clearly be attributed as the tournament`s first refereeing blunder.
Nishimura trailed the play by several yards and was in no position to make the correct call. He also failed to consult his linemen about the foul.
The correct call should have been to award Croatia a free kick and book Fred for his theatrics.
Nishimura’s performance also drew less than rave reviews because of the calls he didn’t make.
The referee chose to let the match flow but clearly ignored several repeat fouls on Brazil as it ramped up its attack late in the first half.
There were also a series of retaliatory fouls by Brazil to go along with the Croatian offences, including a deliberate elbow by Neymar in the 27th minute which was finally penalized by with a yellow card.
Other harsh fouls which Nishimura failed to punish appropriately included Croatian defender Vedran Corluka`s horror foul in the 67th minute. His two-legged take-down of Neymar should have led to his departure, but Corluka stayed in the game.
Given the consistency of Nishimura not awarding fouls for more obvious offences, the decision to award Brazil a penalty kick made no logical sense and may have robbed Croatia a chance to advance to the Round of 16.
CAST YOUR VOTE IN OUR 2014 FIFA WORLD CUP WORST REFEREE POLL
Who is the worst referee at the FIFA 2014 World Cup?
- Enrique Osses, Chile (0%, 62 Votes)
- Nawaf Shukralla, Bahrain (0%, 66 Votes)
- Mark Geiger, United States (0%, 88 Votes)
- Noumandiez Desire Doue, Ivory Coast (0%, 88 Votes)
- Jonas Eriksson, Sweden (0%, 91 Votes)
- Joel Aguilar, El Salvador (0%, 95 Votes)
- Bakary Papa Gassama, Gambia (0%, 127 Votes)
- Meira Sandro Ricci, Brazil (0%, 134 Votes)
- Carlos Vera, Ecuador (0%, 140 Votes)
- Felix Brych, Germany (0%, 146 Votes)
- Bjorn Kuipers, Netherlands (0%, 146 Votes)
- Cuneyt Cakir, Turkey (0%, 147 Votes)
- Nestor Pitana, Argentina (0%, 152 Votes)
- Ravshan Irmatov, Uzbeckistan (0%, 155 Votes)
- Ben Williams, Australia (0%, 169 Votes)
- Nicola Rizzoli, Italy (0%, 266 Votes)
- Howard Webb, England (0%, 276 Votes)
- Djamel Haimoudi, Ivory Coast (0%, 301 Votes)
- Wilmar Roldan, Colombia (0%, 411 Votes)
- Marco Antonio Rodriguez, Mexico (0%, 491 Votes)
- Pedro Proenca, Portugal (1%, 624 Votes)
- Carlos Velasco Carballo, Spain (1%, 686 Votes)
- Yuichi Nishimura, Japan (2%, 2,067 Votes)
- Peter O'Leary, New Zealand (15%, 16,075 Votes)
- Milorad Mazic, Serbia (79%, 87,362 Votes)
Total Voters: 110,365