Fifa referees chief Massimo Busacca has backed the official who awarded Brazil a controversial penalty in their World Cup opener against Croatia.
The hosts won 3-1 but, with 20 minutes left and the score 1-1, Japan’s Yuichi Nishimura ruled that defender Dejan Lovren had pulled down striker Fred.
Busacca denied suggestions that Nishimura had favoured the hosts. “You think about the decision, you don’t have time to think: ‘Ah, but I am in Brazil,'” said Busacca.
The 2009 Champions League final referee added: “We have to believe the referees are honest, and respect them. Maybe there will be mistakes, but we must respect them.
“In refereeing, we have black and white but we also have cases that can be on the borderline.”
Neymar scored from the spot and Oscar added a late third, but the earlier decision infuriated the Croatian players and Lovren said Nishimura should not be officiating at the World Cup.
The Southampton player said: “This referee should not be at this World Cup. It wasn’t a mistake, it was a scandal.
“It’s really disappointing for us because we were playing a good game against a big team. Two billion people I think saw that it was not a penalty. I didn’t touch him.
“We’re really disappointed but what can you do against 12 players? You can’t do anything.”
Fellow Croatia defender Vedran Corluka thought that the decision was “embarrassing”.
“That looked such a soft penalty. The referee has got most things right but he will be disappointed with that. There was not much tugging. Fred went down easily.”
“Brazil played well, but they didn’t deserve to win in this way,” said the former Manchester City and Tottenham player. “It’s ridiculous he was so keen to give the decision. It was difficult to accept.”
Coach Niko Kovac said Croatia should “give up and go home”.
He added: “We talk about respect, that wasn’t respect. Croatia didn’t get any. If that’s a penalty, we don’t need to play football anymore. Let’s play basketball instead. It’s a shame.
“If you continue like this, you will have 100 penalties.”
Brazil boss Luiz Felipe Scolari believed the referee was right to award the spot-kick.
“Millions didn’t see the penalty?” he asked. “The referee did and he said it was a penalty and they are the ones that must decide.
“We also think it was a penalty. I have seen it 10 times and I think it is a penalty.”
The decision came at a pivotal moment in the match. Brazil were dominating possession with Croatia holding out for what would have been a respectable opening draw.
But then Fluminense striker Fred received the ball in the middle of the box with his back to goal and went down under the challenge of Lovren.
France striker Loic Remy said he thought Fred had hoodwinked Nishimura ahead of his country’s opener against Honduras on Sunday.
“Experience comes into it, and it’s important to fall at the right time. For me, the striker should be punished for this kind of wrongdoing,” said the Queens Park Rangers forward, who played alongside Fred at Lyon.