Officiating Controversy Casts Shadow Over Brazil’s 3-1 Victory Against Croatia

download (4)On a day filled with celebration and pageantry, it wasn’t any of the players that made the biggest mark in Sao Paulo.

It was a persona in sports fans have become oh so familiar with. The official.

On a day that was deemed the kickoff of the World Cup of Neymar, with the score tied 1-1, the official made his name known worldwide, and not in the way he would have hoped.

Japanese official Yuichi Nishimura, the man in charge of the opening match of the World Cup, was experienced and ready for this high pressure task. He had been at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, even being named the fourth official for the final between Spain and Netherlands.

But even the most experienced of officials can be at the center of a controversial call.

With Brazil pushing for the go-ahead goal, striker Fred went down in the box in the 69th minute.

A whistle was blown, a hand was pointed, a card was shown and a penalty was scored.

In that briefest of moments Nishimura had changed the outcome of the match, awarding the penalty that gave Brazil the lead for good. After the match the focus wasn’t on the three points earned by the home nation, but the questionable penalty call that decided the match.

“If that’s a penalty, we don’t need to play more football. Let’s play basketball,” Croatian manager Niko Kovac said in a postgame interview with the media. “It’s a shame. We are working hard, we come to the World Cup, and then we come to a referee that is not worthy of that level.”

It wasn’t the only controversial call of the match, as it seemed that Croatia had equalized in the final five minutes, but the goal was disallowed when Nishimura deemed that Brazilian goalkeeper had been fouled on the play.

“I must say, the referee was completely out of his depth,” Kovac added.

Before that point Croatia had opened the scoring with an own goal off of the foot of Brazil left back Marcelo, with Neymar tying the match 1-1 in the 29th minute with a low shot from outside the box.

A late goal from Oscar sealed the points for the Brazilians, with the score finishing 3-1, and left Croatia with nothing to show for the effort.

Next up Brazil will face Mexico June 17 and Croatia will take on Cameroon the following day.