SÃO PAULO—A top FIFA official on Friday defended a controversial decision by the referee in Thursday’s opening World Cup match, saying players must be careful not to put doubts in the referees’ minds.
“The referee was in a very good position and he saw very clearly this situation,” said Massimo Busacca, FIFA’s head of refereeing, during FIFA’s daily briefing in Rio de Janeiro.
Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura awarded a penalty to Brazil in the opener against Croatia after Brazilian striker Fred hit the ground under what appeared to be little pressure from Croatian defender Dejan Lovren. The resulting goal broke a 1-1 tie; Brazil went on to win 3-1.
After the match, Croatia coach Niko Kovac called the penalty “ridiculous” and questioned Nishimura’s experience.
But on Friday, Busacca said pictures show clearly that at least one and maybe both of Lovren’s hands were touching Fred, and that can influence a referee. He said World Cup teams have been warned that referees won’t tolerate players holding on to their rivals.
“If you don’t have [contact], if the player doesn’t touch, doesn’t hold, we [wouldn’t be] here to discuss,” Busacca said.
The official added that he hasn’t analyzed the full match yet and no decision has been made about whether Nishimura will continue to referee in this tournament.