Neymar of Brazil is shown a yellow card by referee Yuichi Nishimura during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo. (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)

Tokyo - The Japan Football Association (JFA) has defended referee Yuichi Nishimura's command of English after his controversial performance in the World Cup opener, according to a media report Monday.

Nishimura was slammed by Croatia's players and coaching staff after Thursday's 3-1 defeat by Brazil for awarding the hosts a soft penalty and for his alleged poor English.

After the game Croatia defender Vedran Corluca said: “It was embarrassing that the referee didn't speak English, he was speaking Japanese.”

Nichimura awarded Brazil a soft penalty in the 71st minute with the game finely poised at 1-1.

Furious Croatian protests seemed to be lost in translation but the JFA has insisted its referees are linguistically competent, the Wall Street Journal reported online.

“Seminars are conducted in English whenever a referee is to take part in an international match organised by FIFA,” a JFA spokesperson was quoted as saying.

Without commenting on Nishimura's display, the spokesperson admitted, however, that English tests were not included in the JFA's refereeing exams.

FIFA have stood by the 42-year-old Nishimura, who also could have shown two-goal hero Neymar a straight red card for a flailing elbow and contentiously disallowed a Croatian goal.