Brazil vs Croatia: Conspiracy theories at the first opportunity 1

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I love a good conspiracy theory as much as the next person, and I will happily engage in any kind of conversation which debates the JFK assassination, the real reasons for both Gulf Wars, and the 2000 US electoral scandal.

Great.  In the right context, conspiracies are fun and engaging, but in football they are almost always painfully dull.

Last night, Croatia were on the end of series of very unfortunate refereeing decisions and they were undeniably ill-treated by Japanese official Yuichi Nishimura.  Neymar should probably have been sent-off, the penalty awarded to Brazil was scandalously soft, and a Croatian player was fouled in the build-up to Oscar’s late, clinching goal.

Yes, I know how that looks - Brazil are the host team, FIFA delegates were peering down from the stands, and this World Cup is being played in a very delicate social climate.  Yup, all the ingredients are there.

Think about this though, and apply some human empathy before reverting to ‘the referee was bent’-style hysteria.

Questioning Yuichi Hishimura’s backbone is fine, because he didn’t stand-up to occasion particularly well, but doubting his integrity is a little extreme.

Take the first of those decisions: the yellow-card given to Neymar for a swinging arm on Luka Modric.  Imagine issuing a red card in that situation - sending-off the icon of Brazilian football in the opening game of a Brazilian World Cup.  Yes, in a perfect world such peripheral factors shouldn’t be relevant, but it’s only natural that they are - that wasn’t a typical footballing situation, it wasn’t a generic Premier League game.

And the penalty?  It was a dive, we know that, but the pressure to point to the spot must have been overwhelming.  Maybe Mr Nishimura - experienced World Cup official though he is - was rattled by the feverish atmosphere or maybe he buckled under the weight of the occasion? If that’s the case, complaints should be directed at whoever appointed him to the fixture.  A European referee might have been better, or at least one with more big-game experience, but there’s a difference between raging against a referee’s suitability and accusing him of being on the pay-roll.

I have every sympathy for the Croatian players and their supporters, because they were badly done last night, but let’s not let the FIFA-created climate of bribery and dishonesty get the better of us - this was just the wrong referee in the wrong place at the wrong time.  It’s an aggravating situation, but it’s not a sinister one.

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