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SAO PAULO (AP) - 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.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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