BRASILIA, June 17 (Reuters) - As ever, the referees and their assistants have been centre stage at the World Cup for both good and bad decisions.
The introduction of goalline technology may have helped make the right one for France in their 3-0 Group E win over Honduras but elsewhere debate has raged amid controversial calls.
Here are the five key refereeing decisions after the first round of group matches in Brazil.
1) Brazil striker Fred wins penalty v Croatia
The opening match was evenly poised at 1-1 in the 69th minute when Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura awarded a penalty for the hosts after Brazil striker Fred hit the floor in theatrical fashion following slight contact from Dejan Lovren.
Neymar stroked home the penalty as Brazil went on to claim all three points with Fred denying accusations he dived as he received the ball with his back to goal with Lovren closely marshalling him.
FIFA’s head of refereeing Massimo Busacca defended the official’s decision after Croatia coach Niko Kovac said the Japanese was “out of his depth” and warned the World Cup could turn into a circus.
“The referee was in a very good position. If you make contact you permit the referee to go in one direction,” the Swiss said.
2) Disallowed Croatian goal v Brazil.
Already unpopular with the Croatians after awarding a penalty to Fred, Nishimura enraged them further by ruling out what would have been an equalising goal in the 83rd minute of their Group A clash.
Croatia forward Ivica Olic was ruled to have fouled goalkeeper Julio Cesar as they jumped for the ball which then ended up in the Brazil net as play continued.
The hosts went on to add inflict further misery on the Croats with Oscar scoring in the final stages to complete a 3-1 win.
3) Ravshan plays key advantage in dramatic Swiss winner
Ravshan Irmatov had been guilty of not letting the play flow during the Group E clash between Ecuador and Switzerland but the Uzbek official rectified that with a crucial advantage as the Europeans snatched a dramatic win in the 93rd minute.
Valon Behrami made a vital block tackle in his own area but as he broke towards goal he was taken out by an Ecuadorean. Irmatov, though, allowed play to carry on as Behrami quickly got back to his feet and continued the move which ended with Haris Seferovic slotting the ball home for a 2-1 win.
4) Australia rightfully denied equaliser v Chile.
Australia looked in danger of being blown away as they quickly fell 2-0 down to Chile in their Group B match-up but Tim Cahill cut the deficit with a trademark header.
The experienced forward then had Socceroos’ fans on their feet after another header found the back of the net and he reeled off to celebrate what he thought was the equalising goal.
But his cheers were cut short as the eagle-eyed assistant had noticed he had strayed marginally offside before the cross came in from the right. The South Americans regained their composure and sealed a 3-1 win late on after Jean Beausejour’s strike.
5) France ease to win after penalty and red card for Honduran
France were on top in their Group E opener against a physical Honduras but could not find a way through before the Central American’s robust approach cost them a goal and player.
Wilson Palacios charged into French midfielder Paul Pogba seconds before the break in a reckless challenge and was sent off for a second booking. Karim Benzema converted the resulting penalty and France ran out comfortable 3-0 winners.
Brazilian referee Sandro Ricci’s decision to send off Palacios showed his Honduran team mates that further rough tactics would not be tolerated. (Reporting by Patrick Johnston, editing by Ed Osmond)