Referee Christina Pedersen, right, speaks to players during Monday's… (Andrew Yates / AFP / Getty…)
LONDON — The Americans used words such as "dramatic," "gutty" and "inspiring" to describe their 4-3 overtime win against Canada in the women's soccer semifinals Monday.
The Canadians? Well, they used different words — not all of which can be repeated here.
Much of the Canadians' anger was directed at Norwegian referee Christiana Pedersen, who made a pair of rare — and decisive — calls late in the second half.
First she ruled that Canadian keeper Erin McLeod had held the ball longer than six seconds after making a save. But instead of issuing a warning or even a yellow card, she brought the ball back to the edge of the 18-yard box and gave the U.S. an indirect free kick.
Then when that kick struck the elbow of Canadian defender Marie-Eve Nault, who was trying to twist out of the way, the referee awarded a penalty kick, which Abby Wambach converted in the 80th minute to send the game to overtime.
"The ref, she'll have to sleep in bed after watching the replays tonight. She's got that to live with," Canadian Coach John Herdman said. "We'll move on from this, I wonder if she'll be able to?
"Go and watch the replay of that decision. They'll be replaying that for the next 10 years in Canadian history. It felt like it was America and the referee against us tonight "
Canadian captain Christine Sinclair, whose hat trick accounted for all her team's scoring, was even less diplomatic.
"We felt that the referee took it away 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," she said. "We feel cheated."
FIFA, soccer's world governing body and the group that oversees the officials in Olympic soccer, addressed the controversy in a one-sentence statement Tuesday.
"As is our practice, FIFA will make no comment on this issue and in any case, the referee's decision is always final."
FIFA was forced to defend its officials for repeated blown calls in the 2010 World Cup, including a goal an Argentine player who was clearly offside scored against Mexico in a knockout game.
The U.S. will play for its third consecutive Olympic gold medal Thursday when it meets Japan, while Canada plays France for the bronze.
"Maybe the referee will wear a Canadian jersey for this game," Sinclair said. "I wouldn't want to be the team that plays us next."