After a long period of waiting and anticipating, punctuated by moments of uncertainty due to protests, and government crackdowns, the FIFA World Cup finally kicked off in the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo.
After an impressive ceremony which featured performances by music heavyweights Jennifer Lopez, Pitbull, and Claudia Leitte, the opening game between host nation Brazil, and Croatia opened the period of hostilities.
Those who thought Croatia were clear underdogs, received a rude shock when a heavy onslaught from their attacking machinery resulted in a cross from the left flank, which produced an own-goal by Brazilian defender Marcelo Vieira da Silva. Precision passing, determined attacking, and fast paced incursions characterized the Croatian game.
The own goal seemed to have totally demoralized the Brazilian side, who were made to look rather ordinary, until Neymar slotted home a 25-yarder in the 29th minute. The game turned after that, with Croatia soaking up the Brazilian pressure.
The beauty of the game, however, was perhaps marred by the performance of Japanese referee Yuichi Nashimura. The renowned world class FIFA referee made some decisions, which were even criticized by ESPN commentators, Ian Darke and Steve McManaman. The most obvious of these decisions was the 71st minute penalty awarded to Brazil; one that was converted by Neymar Junior, and shot the Brazilians ahead. A replay clearly showed that Frederico Chaves Guedes, popularly known as Fred, dived and got the referee to award the dubious spot kick.
Minutes after the goal, social media platforms were awash with discussions on Referee Nashimura’s performance, especially considering that he proceeded to show Croatian defender, Dejan Lovren, the yellow card as well.
In a World Cup that boasts the latest in technological innovation, including the much touted goal-line technology, connoisseurs of the game are asking if perhaps, it is time to replace the human referee with some form of technology. Pundits, however, argue that ‘human error’ adds to the game’s enjoyment, and replacing the human referee will amount to ‘killing’ the game.