Japanese to referee World Cup opener

Yuichi Nishimura shows a yellow card at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa

RIO DE JANEIRO - Football's governing body FIFA on Tuesday named referees for the first four matches at the World Cup in Brazil, and three Japanese were selected to oversee the opening match between Brazil and Croatia on Thursday in Sao Paulo.

Yuichi Nishimura, 42, was chosen as the referee, while Toru Sagara, 37, and Toshiyuki Nagi, 42, were selected as assistant referees. This is the first time that Japanese referees will be used for the World Cup's opening game.

It will be the second straight Cup appearance for both Nishimura and Sagara following the last World Cup in South Africa, and the first for Nagi.

At the last World Cup, serving as the fourth referee for the final, Nishimura handled four games, including the quarterfinal between the Netherlands and Brazil.

The three Japanese were referees in the 2012 London Olympics and last year's Confederations Cup in Brazil.

Nishimura received the Asian Football Confederation's Referee of the Year award in 2012. Their experience on the international stage led to the appointment.

For referees to be chosen, they must come from a country whose national team is in a different FIFA confederation than the two teams playing in the match.

When Nishimura was selected in January as a World Cup referee for the second time, he said: "I referee with Japanese compassion, thinking about others' feelings. When I blow the whistle at kickoff, I'm really expressing my gratitude to everyone."