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World Cup: FIFA defends Japanese referee in opening match

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.

RIO DE JANEIRO: 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 centre forward Fred on Thursday night.

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)."

Nishimura, 42, has twice been voted referee of the year in Japan's J-League and was at the 2010 World Cup finals. But he has a reputation for controversial decisions.

But no sooner had referees chief Busacca sprung to Nishimura's defence then the standard of officiating was again under scrutiny as Mexico took on Cameroon.

Mexico's Oribe Peralta scored the only goal of a rain-lashed Group A game in Natal, securing a precious three points for Miguel Herrera's side.

But the main talking points after the game was the standard of officiating, with Colombia referee Wilmar Roldan chalking off what looked like two valid Mexico goals in the first half.

Football chiefs have introduced the use of goal-line technology at this World Cup, anxious to avoid a repeat of the fiasco at the 2010 tournament when England's Frank Lampard saw a legitimate goal not given in his team's last 16 match with Germany.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter said earlier this week the use of technology should be taken further, suggesting the introduction of a possible video-replay based challenge system similar to those used in other sports.

However referees chief Busacca said Friday he was unconvinced more technology was the answer.

"When the situation is clear 100 percent of course it (technology) can really help the referee to say 'Yes, the player scored a goal by his hands'. But these situations are very rare," Busacca said.

"For the black and white situations it can help the referee. But when we have cases of doubt, you may have a big interruption to play and still there will be doubt."

In a separate controversy, the pitch in the Amazon city of Manaus due to host its first World Cup match when England play Italy there on Saturday is not up to the required standard, according to world players union FIFPro.

There are large dry areas on the pitch and some of it has been spray painted green, according to reporters who have been to the stadium.

"The players deserve a quality playing surface," said a FIFPro statement. "This isn't the case in Manaus.

Brazil World Cup spokesman Saint-Clair Milesi played down the pitch fears.

"We had more an aesthetic problem than a performance problem," Milesi said.

"We have a team of specialists there, giving a lot of attention and we are sure that the stadium, the pitch will be in good condition."

Neither England nor Italy have officially complained ahead of the much-awaited Group D game on Saturday.

Friday's other games sees Group B ties between Chile and Australia and Spain and Netherlands.

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