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More Fallout From Controversial Referee Call in US vs Canada Olympic Women’s Soccer Semifinal

2012 August 8

Cristine Sinclair receives instructions from Canadian coach John Herdman. The Canadian team is under investigation by FIFA.

The fallout from the Women’s Olympic Soccer match between the US and Canada that the Fiver of the Guardian is calling, “The greatest knockout match in major-tournament football since 1982,” is still having repercussions.

A number of big stories about the incident broke yesterday.

First, the CBC reported yesterday that FIFA is investigating both the Canadian players and their coach, Englishman John Herdman, for post match remarks that were made.

Herdman made remarks before the match regarding illegal play by the Americans. After the match he was vocal about Norwegian referee Christiana Pedersen’s call on goalkeeper Erin McLeod for holding the ball too long that gave the Americans a indirect free kick in the box which then resulted in a penalty kick that tied the score at 3 apiece.

“She’ll have to sleep in bed tonight after watching the replays, she’s got that to live with,” said Herdman. “We’ll move on from this, I wonder if she’ll be able to.”

Christine Sinclair had stated, “”Obviously, we’re disappointed and upset. We felt that the referee took it away from us, so, yes, we are disappointed. We feel like we didn’t lose, we feel like it was taken from us. It’s a shame in a game like that, which is so important, that the ref decided the result before the game started.”

FIFA said no timeline had been put on a decision. Others are asking for a review of Melissa Tancredi’s head stomp of Carli Lloyd.

Meanwhile, Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports interviewed Abby Wambach who said she knew Canada was trying to slow the game down which included McLeod holding the ball as long as possible. In the article she admitted to counting out loud next to the referee whenever McLeod held the ball. “I got to 10 seconds right next to the referee, and at 10 seconds she blew the whistle,” Wambach said.

Later in the day the CBC reported that they had spoken to referee Pedersen’s father, Rolf, who said his daughter comes from a long line of referees in the family. The elder Pedersen said he had spoken to his daughter for about 10 minutes on Tuesday and she told him she had warned McLeod twice for holding the ball beyond the allowable six seconds.

Interestingly, Scotsman Martin Rennie, who is coach of the Canadian-based MLS team, Vancouver Whitecaps, also weighed in on the controversy. Rennie told The Vancouver Sun, “Watching it again, I realized the goalkeeper held the ball for 16 seconds, in the second half she held it for 17 seconds and then she got penalized for holding for 13 seconds. So, that’s a long time on the ball and understandable why the ref called it.”


27 Responses
  1. Alex permalink
    August 8, 2012

    As a regular Canadian reader of this excellent website I would like to raise a quick point. Right now Christine Sinclair is a sports hero in Canada, who has inspired countless boys, girls, women and men to play soccer, while dreaming of beating the “cheating” Americans.

    I remember a time when soccer was a non-entity in North America. You couldn’t watch the entire World Cup on TV, an MLS-type league was mere fantasy, and soccer fans in Canada and the U.S. were told repeatedly that our beloved sport would never catch on here. Now, some Canadian sports columnists are suggesting that Sinclair be the flag bearer for Canada at the closing Olympic ceremonies, on the grounds that she has has been, hands down, Canada’s best Olympic athlete.

    A fun part of sports is egging on opposing fans. In Canada, the entire nation is convinced that the U.S. cheated their way to a win thanks to a 12th player from Norway. In the U.S., everyone is equally sure that the better (and classier!) team won. But as our neighbouring countries yell at each other over a wonderful soccer game, let us pause for a second to appreciate how our sport has inspired millions of people into water cooler talk at work. That is pretty freaking awesome.

  2. August 8, 2012

    Thanks for the comment, Alex. Good point. I do have to say however, I was again frustrated/saddened when local media here in the Twin Cities hardly gave any attention whatsoever to the US v Canada soccer match and instead seemed to focus on the women’s basketball trouncing 91-48 of Canada on Tuesday. What can I say. The media in this town are horrible when it comes to soccer.

  3. August 8, 2012

    the other point to make here is what may come of women’s pro soccer in Canada, combining with women’s pro Soccer in the U.S. The Canadian National team opens eyes/doors and provides more possibility for a pro league to make it. teams in vancouver, toronto, montreal and others can combine efforts with American cities.

  4. August 8, 2012

    I don’t know if you knew this Brian, but this game was the second (SECOND!) Most watched Olympic event in Canada, only trailing Team Canada Men’s Hockey gold in Vancouver. Just amazing.

  5. Mike permalink
    August 8, 2012

    I hope Sinclair does get to be Canada’s flag bearer at the closing, she deserves it. I had the pleasure of watching her play in person when she was with the WNY Flash in WPS last season, and she is an incredibly talented footballer. Normally a quiet and humble athlete who does her talking on the pitch, she’s not afraid to speak her piece when she’s feels it necessary.

    I won’t comment on the outcome, but I have heard plenty of shots being fired from both sides.

  6. Brian permalink
    August 8, 2012

    You sir/mam are a sore loser. ’nuff said!

  7. August 8, 2012

    Brian, Alex is certainly not a sore loser. He only made observations and was careful not to offend anyone. Not sure what your point was, however?

  8. Ian permalink
    August 9, 2012

    The Canadian keeper was playing with fire for consiently holding the ball WELL over the standard 6 seconds…. Trying to slow and effectively could be classified as cheating paid the price…. canada lost the game, it wasn’t “taken away”…. The facts are the keeper held the ball too long, was warned and continued to do it…. I think the Canadian team can reflect on this… The ref was right to make the call…… Sad as it was, the Canadian keeper and/or her adviser was at fault….

  9. scottykb permalink
    August 9, 2012

    I dont have a problem with the call on holding the ball..but the hand ball call on the free kick is the one people should be be talking about. It was not a deliberate hand ball (see rule book) so a penalty shot should not have been given. That was the call that got me hot after getting explanations by media and former players etc.. thats the call the ref guessed on and should not have made..ahhhh… cheers..good job London on games//

  10. Demolition Man permalink
    August 9, 2012

    FYI they were talking about the game for a bit on KFAN after it ended in between talking about the Men’s Basketball game that was going on.

  11. yankiboy permalink
    August 9, 2012

    You sir/mam are a sore loser. ’nuff said!”
    -Brian August 8, 2012

    This has got to be one of the side-splittingly, FUNNIEST posts that I have EVER read, here on IMS!

    I admit it, I’m “guilty, as charged!”. I actually took you for being serious for about 4.8 seconds until I realized that you were just yanking our chains (excuse the horrendous pun) with your playful, sarcasm.

    I gotta hand it to you. You reeled me in, hook, line and sinker. I felt as silly as the day last week when I was gullible enough to stop and bend over to try to pick up a quarter on the street, only to find that it had been glued there in order to make fun of chumps like me (I really wish that I was making that up but I didn’t–that really happened)!

    Way to help diffuse what has become a bitter, international incident with a sniper like levity.

    Very well played, Sir!

  12. yankiboy permalink
    August 9, 2012

    @Alex, DB, Fotbalist and the other Canuck Playahs that participate here on IMS:

    Thanks an awful lot for bringin’ some Maple Leaf flava around here! I really enjoy that Northern-type perspective, especially since I live too far south to have CBC and TSN offered by my soon-to-be-ex cable provider.

  13. tomASS permalink
    August 9, 2012

    To the Canadian readers and posters on this site; you can take great pride in the way Sinclair played and has inspired a nation of future players. The great rivalry for the US in the future is against Canada. So that should also inspire you hosers. 😉

    You should also take great pride in creating one of the best TV sitcoms ever. I am a huge fan of the now defunked, Dog River based, Corner Gas. Your National anthem rocks too!

    @scottykb – I agree with you to a certain extent. It is a judgement call and “advice to referees” has added other considerations for the referee to process that decision. That said I go back to the delay call, if Pedersen did give her two spoken words of warning then that call had to be made. Those with children will understand this point.

    Besides, Norwegians are never wrong, we just are not right all the time.

  14. tomASS permalink
    August 9, 2012

    sorry I that last post should have ended with ………………


  15. Eric permalink
    August 9, 2012

    Scottykb, I have been playing, coaching, and watching soccer for over 25 years. You use the term “deliberate”, just as it is used in the international rules. What is deliberate? She saw the ball coming at her and deliberately turned her body ant lifted her arm causing the ball to hit her arm. Therefore it is a hand ball. The call was correct. If you want to question a hand ball that was called what about the one on Rapinoe? My feeling is if they called Rapinoe’s obviously non-deliberate hand ball, then they definitely should have called Tancredi. From my experience the refs call it whenever a ball touches a hand or arm, deliberate or not.

  16. Lego7 permalink
    August 9, 2012

    Despite the controversies, the positives we can take out of all the attention towards the women’s Olympic run is that now there is plan from a group, which includes a few former WPS teams, to start a new women’s league in North America. Hopefully this one goes about it the smart way.

    It’s nice to step back from all the tensions and drama once awhile and just observe the tremendous growth of this sport in both our countries. It’s all for the greater good.

  17. leper permalink
    August 9, 2012

    Sinclair’s play in the tournament was outstanding. Her post match comments not so much. No one cheated Canada out of anything. They had a bad (although completely correct within the laws of the game) call go against them. Bad calls happen in soccer all the time. The referee didn’t cause them to block a shot with their hands. Or to stop defending in the 120th minute and leave a player free for a header. Or to classlessly stomp on an opponent’s head.

    I’m surprised Sinclair wasn’t suspended for the bronze medal match to be honest. Saying that the referee deliberately threw the game or favored the other team (as opposed to just saying she made a bad call and cost you the game) calls into question the integrity of the entire competition. You really shouldn’t be able to get away with doing that without facing some kind of repercussions.

  18. tomASS permalink
    August 9, 2012

    @ Eric – probably splitting hairs but I believe the wording is “intentional” in the laws of the game. No worries, however in “advice to referees” that help in the interpretation of the laws; the question arises that if you intentionally turn your body away is it a natural body motion of not getting hit in the face or was there intent to reach out and block the shot. It was solely Pedersen’s call and interpretation of the set of actions that occurred. It provides great banter for us, but it really does not matter what we think

    leper – nice post

  19. Flipper permalink
    August 9, 2012

    Is it me or are our (US) defenders simply horrible?

  20. tomASS permalink
    August 9, 2012

    @Flipper – not you. Very poorly organized team defending play, appearances of lousy communication, and some very questionable individual defending tactics, all that said some very excellent attacking play by the Japanese to cause some of these problems.

    Soccer Gods smiling on the US today

  21. Richard permalink
    August 9, 2012

    Both Canada and the Japan team should protest these outrageous calls. At least in Canada’s case, there is no doubt that the Canadian player’s arm did touch the ball, although it shouldn’t have resulted in a penalty kick. Abby Wambach’s pressure she was applying to the referee all game long, to which she had admitted, had its intended effect eventually.

    In Japan’s case, they should protest the two critical bad calls which should have resulted in TWO PENALTY KICKS. Why is it that the US team always benefits from the officiating? Even the NBC announcers were incredulous at the officiating today. Two penalty kicks would likely have put Japan on top of the podium today. In typical Japanese fashion, they don’t want to go there. They just put up with this. At least the Canadians had the guts to let the world know when they’ve been wronged.

    I knew Japan was in trouble the minute I saw the four referees at the beginning of the game. They are the same four that officiated last year’s World Cup final, during which Ohno was called offsides in a 1 on 1 situation which would have resulted in a goal. Even at that time, the announcers showed the replay and said it was a huge break for the US.

    I am really disappointed that the US players and Pia Sundhage doesn’t acknowledge that they benefited immensely from the officiating. It’s as if winning, even by cheating, is more important than fair play. Congratulations, Team USA, you can clutch your gold medals and sleep at night, especially Abby Wambach, even if your medals look a little bronze.

  22. keith permalink
    August 10, 2012

    tomAss: no. The offense is deliberately handling the ball. The word “intentional” is almost never used by soccer referees anywhere (yes, I am one) as that indicates one knows what the player was thinking. Advice To Referees is a USSF publication to help us. USSF puts out memoranda from time to time also and I’m going to paste one here they put out on “Handling Offenses” because it discusses something that you never see anywhere in the media and has led to a huge amount of confusion in the general public: avoidability. When deciding whether or not a deliberate handling offense has occurred, the referee has to decide could the contact of the hand (or arm) with the ball been avoided. If the exact same thing had happened in a U16 girls game, there would have been no call if the referee knew what she was doing because at that level of play we don’t expect a player to have the skills to avoid the ball and throwing your arm up would be expected. The players in this game are the best in the world. Here’s the paste:

    Recent incidents in the professional leagues involving possible handling
    offenses have caused considerable comment and debate. For those not
    officiating the match, multiple camera angles, instant replay, and slow-motion
    viewing make the debate easier because they allow a leisurely analysis of the
    facts well after the relevant decision has to be made.
    The Laws of the Game declare that a direct free kick is given to the
    opposing team if a player “handles the ball deliberately (except for the
    goalkeeper within his own penalty area).” This simple statement defines one of
    the ten listed offenses in the first part of Law 12 (Fouls and Misconduct) and lies
    at the historical and traditional heart of soccer, a game played with all parts of the
    body other than the hands. Only the goalkeeper is exempt from this restriction
    and only while within his own penalty area.
    What are the characteristics of a clear handling offense?
    • A player deliberately carries, strikes, or propels the ball with the
    hand or arm
    • It is the player’s action that initiates the contact with the ball
    What characteristics of ball contact are clearly not handling offenses?
    • The ball strikes the hand or arm (i.e., the ball initiates the contact)
    • The contact is accidental (not the result of action by the player)
    • The contact is the result of a purely reflexive effort at self-protection
    What are the standards of judgment which the referee will apply when the
    handling offense is not immediately clear?
    • The distance or time within which the player had to react to avoid
    contact – if there was time to avoid the contact, the likelihood of an
    offense is greater
    • The position of the player’s hand or arm at the time of the contact –
    if the hand or arm is carried in an unnatural or unusual position
    (e.g., high up in the air or, while defending against a free kick, far
    away from the body), the likelihood of an offense is greater

    Look at the last bullet point. This was at a free kick and the arm was high up in the air and in some of the replays you see the arm also was extended from the body. Yes, the player did turn her head away which is something we look at but at this level of play, the arm has to stay down. The referee was in perfect position to make a call she knew she would take heat for but it IS the correct call and this referee showed a remarkable amount of guts to make it.

    If there was one call or no call that was blatantly wrong in this game it was the one where a Canadian player stomped on a USA’s player’s head. Watching the replay you can see the referee was watching the ball and never saw this happen. Neither did the Assistant Referee. Had either seen this, Canada would have been playing a man short the rest of the game as it was an easy straight red card call that every referee would make. You can argue against the six second call (although it also was correct in Law) and the handball in the penalty area but no one can argue that the head stomp was legal.

    Soccer is an interesting game and calls tend to even out at the end of the match. No one “took” this game from Canada who played a splendid game. The referee missed a clear red card call. Just for the sake of argument, what if she had seen that but didn’t make the six second call? Sure, you subtract the goal for the subsequent PK but what would the effect of Canada playing without one of it’s best players for half the game had been? AND playing 10 against 11? Who knows and that’s my point. This was an excellent game and the referee did an excellent job. She was rarely out of position and was able to keep pace with some of the finest athletes on this planet. She obviously knows The Laws Of The Game and she applied them as she saw fit for this particular game. One can’t ask for more from any referee.

  23. keith permalink
    August 10, 2012

    Richard, I don’t know where you are from or anything about you except you know little about soccer and are typical of the “fans” I see on websites all over the world. The Canadian keeper routinely held the ball for over 10 seconds. Videos show her holding the ball over 15 seconds twice. These are offenses. These are illegal. Abby Wambach was counting seconds out loud. I must have missed where in the Laws this is forbidden and if you have a copy, no, it doesn’t constitute unsporting behavior if you wanted to go there.

    WHO was cheating? The Canadian keeper who routinely was breaking the Laws or an American player simply pointing this out? I think even you can answer that. And, oh yeah, we have that small matter of a Canadian player stomping an American player’s head. And you have the gall to say the USA is more interested in winning by cheating than Fair Play? Amazingly stupid, but fully expected remark from someone that knows nothing about soccer other than, apparently, he can’t stand the USA.

    As to your ranting about the Japan game; doesn’t really deserve any comment.

  24. peter permalink
    August 10, 2012


    When I ref a game and a player keeps counting or trying to tell me how to ref the game I’ll give the player a warning. If the player doesn’t stop I’ll show the player a yellow card.
    Please also note the following about the rule book, if a player gets injured during a match most likely the opposing team will kick the ball out so they can attend to the injured player. This is a good sportsmanship and you won’t see that in the rule book. Just like in a tennis match if a player misses his or her first server the opponent doesn’t smash the ball back at him (tennis code of ethics). This is also not in tennis rule book.
    In addition we always encourage referees to use their discretion in making any call, based on the factors that went into making the decision in the first place. You have to make the decision and stick with it. If the keeper keeps the ball too long I’ll give ONE verbal warning and the next time will be an indirect kick. The ref determines what is acceptable and what is not. You also want the game to flow, there is lots of pushing and shaving in soccer if you go by the rule book you’ll have to interrupt the game constantly.
    This game shouldn’t have been decided by penalty kick, the idea of the player jump too high or turned or moved her arm up or down is irrelevant. Because it all comes down to “discretion” and the reason is it wasn’t clear if the ball was touched on purpose or not. If you look at any legit sport website or news cast no one can say for sure if it was a penalty. You want the opposing team to earn it. In addition if the center ref isn’t sure of a particular call they can always consult the linesmen (referee helper). Part of the linesman job is to raise his flag if there was a foul in the box. I think the linesman wasn’t that great either he should of pointed to plenty area if he also thought it was a penalty. In addition few minutes after the game was tied up the ball was touched by US defender and it clearly crossed the end line which would have given a corner kick to Canada. But the linesman gave a goal kick. May be his view was blocked. The point is referees will miss some calls and that is just the nature of the game. However giving a penalty kick or awarding indirect kick because keeper kept the ball too long at the end of the game is simply should not happen at this level. Clear US didn’t earn this win.


  25. The Choosen One permalink
    August 12, 2012


    Do you follow any other sports in the Twin Cities? There is a reason women’s basketball got more coverage by the local media. The women’s basketball has more ties to Minnesota than the women’s soccer team. Maya Moore, Seimone Augustu and of course the darling of women’s basketball in the state of Minnesota Lindsay Whalen. All three play for the defending WNBA champions Minnesota Lynx.

  26. Brian permalink
    August 13, 2012

    August 9, 2012

    How about the trick with some fish line tied to a dollar bill, chasing it down the sidewalk. Now that’s a side splitter. eh.

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