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FIFA reform chief defends Blatter

FIFA World Cup
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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Referees chief backs Brazil penalty

FIFA's head of refereeing has backed the controversial penalty award that enabled Brazil to take a 2-1 lead in their opening World Cup match against Croatia on Thursday.

- Holiga: Croatia seething after bitter defeat
- Marcotti: Controversy hits World Cup opener

With 20 minutes remaining and the scores level in Sao Paolo, Japanese official Yuichi Nishimura pointed to the spot after ruling that Brazil forward Fred had been fouled by defender Dejan Lovren inside the area.

Neymar converted from the spot to score his second goal of a game the host nation eventually won 3-1, and an angry Lovren described the penalty decision as "a scandal."

But refereeing chief Massimo Busacca told reporters in Rio De Janeiro that Nishimura was justified in awarding a penalty, saying: "The referee was in a very good position."

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He said photographic evidence showed Lovren had touched Fred not only with his left hand but also his right. "If you make contact, you permit the referee to go in one direction," he explained. The player said the incident had been "a clear penalty."

However, Busacca declined to answer questions about whether Nishimura would officiate at other matches during the World Cup.

And when one reporter suggested that the penalty decision had been a mistake, he said: "It's your opinion, and I'll let you think it if you want."

There was further refereeing controversy in Friday's game between Mexico and Cameroon in Natal after two Giovani dos Santos efforts were disallowed in the first half as Mexico won 1-0.

In his address to the FIFA congress this week, the organisation's president Sepp Blatter suggested introducing a television referral system that would enable managers to challenge up to two refereeing decisions per match.

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