Thursday, June 12, 2014 | 3:31 p.m.
SAO PAULO — Yuishi Nichimura ensured that refereeing standards at the World Cup will be a hotly debated topic from the opening match on Thursday.
The Japanese official awarded Brazil a questionable penalty that Neymar converted in the 71st minute, giving the host nation 2-1 up in what turned into a 3-1 victory over Croatia.
For some referees, Neymar might not have been on the field to take the spot-kick, nor even level the match in the 29th minute.
Nichimura showed the Brazil star just a yellow card in the 26th minute for pushing a forearm into the throat of Croatia playmaker Luka Modric.
Four years ago, the 42-year-old professional referee sent off Brazil defender Felipe Melo in its quarter-final exit against the Netherlands.