Nishimura of Japan to referee World Cup opener

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SAO PAULO (AP) - Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura will handle the opening game of the World Cup between Brazil and Croatia as FIFA picked the same official who oversaw the Brazilians’ elimination in the last tournament in South Africa.

FIFA also selected Nicola Rizzoli of Italy to officiate the hotly-anticipated Group B game between world champion Spain and the Netherlands, a rematch of the ill-tempered final four years ago.

FIFA said Tuesday that Nishimura will be joined by compatriots Toru Sagara and Toshiyuki Nagi, who will be the assistant referees for Thursday’s Brazil-Croatia tournament and Group A opener at the Itaquerao stadium in Sao Paulo. Iran’s Alireza Faghani is the fourth official.

The 42-year-old Nishimura handled four games at the last World Cup, including Brazil’s loss to the Netherlands in the quarterfinals. He sent off Brazil’s Felipe Melo in that game for stamping on Arjen Robben as the Brazilians surrendered the lead to lose 2-1.

Of FIFA’s 25 referees for Brazil, Nishimura is one of five that have been retained from the World Cup in 2010. The others are Ravshan Irmatov of Uzbekistan, Joel Aguilar of El Salvador, Peter O’Leary of New Zealand and Howard Webb of England, who refereed the final.

FIFA announced the referees for the first four games in Brazil, the opening Group A and Group B encounters, including Spain vs. Netherlands on Friday in Salvador. Rizzoli, who took charge of the 2013 Champions League final, will referee his first World Cup game.

___

Referee appointments:

Thursday

Group A

Brazil vs. Croatia

Referee: Yuichi Nishimura (Japan). Assistant referees: Toru Sagara and Toshiyuki Nagi (both Japan): Fourth official: Alireza Faghani (Iran).

Friday

Group A

Mexico vs. Cameroon

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