TOKYO - Japanese football fans took to social media Friday to express regret and shame over referee Yuichi Nishimura's contentious calls in the World Cup opener, which Brazil came back to win 3-1 over Croatia.
Nishimura awarded a penalty when Brazil forward Fred dramatically fell to ground from a slight touch on his upper left arm by Dejan Lovren.
Neymar converted the 71st-minute penalty, giving the host nation a 2-1 lead.
Earlier in the game, Nishimura showed Neymar a yellow card in the 26th for elbowing Croatia playmaker Luka Modric. Some critics thought the punishment should have been harsher.
Some twitter posts featured mocked-up photos of Nishimura wearing a Brazil jersey. Popular singer Hikaru Utada tweeted that she hoped Croatian people wouldn't dislike all Japanese people because of Nishimura's performance.
Criticism of Nishimura's penalty decision was shared by Croatia coach Niko Kovac.
"It was a wrong decision by the referee," Kovac said. "I think that the whole world saw the big mistake."
At the African Cup of Nations in 2008, Nishimura failed to dismiss Angolan players for pushing him during the quarterfinal match between Egypt and Angola. He was not appointed to any more matches in the tournament by CAF.
Nichimura worked four matches at the 2010 World Cup but is best known, ironically, for sending off Brazil defender Felipe Melo in its quarterfinal exit against the Netherlands.