Tokyo: Japanese football fans hung their heads in shame on Friday, after referee Yuichi Nishimura’s controversial performance in the World Cup opener helped Brazil to a 3-1 win over Croatia, further clouding Fifa’s showpiece tournament.
Social media in Japan lit up after the official’s decision to give a soft penalty to Brazil which changed the balance of the closely fought match. Several posts showed mock photos of Nishimura wearing a Brazil jersey.
“There’s a lot of Nishimura bashing but quite right,” tweeted one fan. “It’s a tough job for us dithering Japanese.”
Anticipating further backlash, another said: “Oh dear, if Brazil win the World Cup the whole world will say Nishimura was the MVP (most valuable player).”
The 42-year-old Nishimura also disallowed a Croatian goal and should arguably have shown Brazilian star Neymar a straight red card for elbowing Luka Modric.
He has been an international referee since 2004, and has officiated in several tournaments including the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
At the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations, Nishimura was shoved by Angolan players during a quarter-final with Egypt, but failed to send any of them off, and did not feature in the rest of the tournament. (Agencies)