New Zealand officials did a good job controlling their first football World Cup match, says a friend of the referee - and a controversial call only reflects the human element of sport.

Peter O'Leary made his debut at the centre of world sport's biggest stage yesterday morning when he whistled the match between Nigeria and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Nigeria triumphed 1-0, ending Bosnia's chances of making the next round.

The biggest controversy in the match came with the denial of what replays showed to be a fair goal for Bosnia and Manchester City striker Eden Dzeko in the 21st minute.


Mr O'Leary, 42, was joined by fellow Kiwis Jan Hendrik Hintz and Mark Rule as assistant referees, and ruled out the goal after an offside flag was raised by Mr Rule.

Nigeria scored the decisive goal eight minutes later through Peter Odemwingie.

Yesterday, long-time friend and fellow football referee Brett Chibnall defended Mr O'Leary.

"Things happen so, so quickly, it's unbelievable. I think [Mr Rule] had a really outstanding game. These things happen. Sport is played by humans, and if you put technology into the sport you might as well take the humans out."

Mr Chibnall said he thought Mr O'Leary, who is the head science teacher at Whangarei's Tikipunga High School, was correct to dismiss Bosnian complaints that there was a foul in the lead-up to Nigeria's goal.

"Basically it is a contact sport and the player was too easily outmuscled. I think you have to be strong."

He was hopeful the Kiwi team would be awarded control of another match at the tournament.

World Cup facts
Top scorer:
Karim Benzema, France, 3
Thomas Mueller, Germany, 3
Robin Van Persie, Netherlands, 3
Arjen Robben, Netherlands, 3
Enner Valencia, Ecuador, 3
Top runner: Serge Aurier, Ivory Coast, 19,342m
Top saves: Vincent Enyeama, Nigeria, 8 saves, 0 goals conceded.
Goals per match: 2.9
Matches played: 29/64