Fifa referee chief defends contentious penalty in World Cup opener

RIO DE JANEIRO - The head of refereeing at Fifa on Friday defended a contentious penalty decision during the opening game of the 2014 World Cup between host nation Brazil and Croatia.

At Thursday's match at Corinthians arena in Sao Paulo, Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura ruled that Croatia's Dejan Lovren had fouled Fred when the Brazilian fell to the floor with 20 minutes remaining and the score at 1-1.

Neymar converted the penalty for his second goal of the game and Brazil went on to win 3-1 in the Group A match, but the spot kick decision dominated debate after the game and drew condemnation from Croatia's players, coach and further afield.

Massimo Busacca, in charge of refereeing for world football's ruling body, told reporters in Rio De Janeiro that Nishimura appeared to be justified in awarding a penalty. "The referee was in a very good position," he said of the 42-year-old match official.

He said a photograph of the incident showed that there was contact between the two players in the area, and that Lovren touched Fred not only with his left hand but also his right. "If you make contact you permit the referee to go in one direction," he added.

Busacca declined so say whether Nishimura would officiate at other matches during the World Cup, as he and his team had yet to make a full analysis of the referee's performance over the full duration of the opening game.

When one reporter suggested that Nishimura's decision was a mistake, Busacca replied: "A mistake? It's you're opinion and I'll let you think it if you want." Nishimura showed Felipe Melo a red card as Brazil crashed out of the World Cup quarter-finals in 2010, effectively ending Brazil's hopes of coming back from 2-1 down and their dreams of a sixth world title.

Fierce debate over refereeing decisions was unlikely to end with Nishimura's intervention.

One of the main talking points after Friday's game between Mexico and Cameroon at a rain-soaked Dunas arena in Natal was the officiating, after two Giovani dos Santos efforts were controversially disallowed in the first half.

Mexico went on to win 1-0, however, thanks to a Oribe Peralta goal.

FIFA is using goal-line technology for the first time at this World Cup, and FIFA president Sepp Blatter this week suggested introducing a television referral system allowing managers to challenge up to two refereeing decisions per match.