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The opening game of the World Cup was shrouded in controversy but the officials' boss says the referee was 'permitted' to give the match-changing penalty

Fifa’s referees’ chief Massimo Busacca has defended Japanese official Yuichi Nishimura following his widely-criticised performance in Thursday’s World Cup opener between Brazil and Croatia.

Nishimura made a number of questionable decisions in the tie, culminating in the awarding of a highly dubious penalty – given against Croatia defender Dejan Lovren for an alleged foul on Fred  - from which Neymar put Brazil 2-1 up.

Neymar was lucky to escape a red card for an elbow on Luka Modric shortly before the Barcelona star equalised in the first half, while Croatia also had a goal from Ivan Perisic chalked off for what the referee deemed to be a foul on home goalkeeper Julio Cesar by Ivica Olic.

Lovren later hit out, labelling Nishimura’s display “a scandal” while the Southampton defender also claimed his side had been up against 12 men in a match Brazil went on to win 3-1.

Busacca, however, felt the referee was entitled to give the penalty which changed the course of the game.

Speaking at Friday’s Fifa daily briefing, he said: “The referee is concentrating on the situation and the gesture [of Lovren putting his hands on Fred].

“How much was the gesture? How much was he really holding? Black and white is something we can discuss. Many say yes, many say no. It is important to keep your opinion.

“The referee had a very good position and from there he saw. On the pitch he has one second to make the decision.

“Unfortunately, the referee is not the defender or the attacker to understand or to know how much it was or was not [a penalty].

“We made it clear we did not want to see holding.

“There was contact. We are not here to discuss that. That’s why we are working on prevention.

“[He made contact] with the left hand and the right hand. If you make contact you permit the referee to go in one direction.”

Busacca refused to say whether Nishimura will miss any World Cup games on the back of his performance.

“It is impossible to say, we have not fully analysed his performance yet,” he added.

“The game is 90 minutes long, not just one situation.”

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