Controversial Calls in the U.S. vs. Germany World Cup Semi-Final

Carly Lloyd celebrates after scoring on a Penaly Kick.  Image credit: Getty Images

Carly Lloyd celebrates after scoring on a Penaly Kick.  Image credit: Getty Images

Controversial refereeing has been a part of sports as long as sports have had rules (just shortly after sports stopped being “to the death.”)  The semifinal match last night between the United States and Germany continued that longstanding tradition, I think much to the chagrin of the German side as they fell to the U.S. by a score of 2-0.  For those who didn’t get a chance to watch, I’ll recap for you:

In the 59th minute of the game, a long, high ball into the U.S. box was run onto by Germany’s Alexandra Popp.  The U.S. defender, Julie Johnston, seeing she would be beat, held up Popp by her shoulder as Popp passed her, a clear foul.  The controversy here is that since Popp was past Johnston, the foul technically constitutes a clear “denial of a scoring opportunity.”  By rule, this would result in a red card for Johnston, meaning that she would be out for the rest of the game and the U.S. would have to play most of the second half down a man.  However, the referee decided to only give Johnston a yellow.  Of course, the foul still gave Germany a penalty kick, but the U.S. would turn out to be doubly lucky when Germany missed the penalty, the first time they have ever missed one in World Cup competition.

The second incident took place at the other end of the pitch in the 67th minute, as U.S. forward Alex Morgan made a break with speed to get past the German defense.  As she pushed the ball forward, German defender Annike Krahn, instead of playing the ball, played Morgan’s body, causing Moran to run up her back and fall to the turf.  While it was a clear obstruction call, the first contact in the foul took place just outside the top of the box and should have resulted in a free kick from that point.  However, the U.S. was awarded a penalty kick, the referee perhaps only seeing the foul once Moran fell inside the top of the box.  The lucky break resulted in the first goal of the match as team captain Carly Lloyd buried the free shot.

With two key decisions going in the U.S.’s favor, you can understand that German fans might try to argue that they deserve be going to the final rather than the U.S.  I disagree, however and I’ll tell you why.  First off, if you want to talk about who “deserved” to win the game more, I’d tell you it was clearly the U.S.  They did not dominate the game as thoroughly as they did against China, I’ll admit.  In that game, the two teams could have played for a week and I would have been surprised to see China score, such was the dearth of quality chances they had.  Germany, on the other hand, did at least get the ball in the U.S. box several times.  But aside from the play they resulted in the missed German penalty kick by Celia Sasic, there was never even any real test for Hope Solo, the U.S. keeper.  On the other hand, if it wasn’t for several excellent saves by Germany’s Nadine Angerer, Germany would have been down 2-0 about 15 minutes in.

Of course it’s always tough to play the “what if” game.  If Johnston had been given the red card, would it have been that much tougher for the U.S. to score?  Yes, of course, but there’s no way to know what the outcome would be.  Considering the stout U.S. defense in the games leading up to this, the game might have very well gone to the shootout at which point anything could happen.  As far as fairness goes, considering that Hope Solo was charging out and (as the U.S. found out from the saves Angerer made early in the game) there is no guarantee that Popp would have managed to score.  The penalty kick they were awarded was a much better opportunity and it was missed.  Germany would have a better argument for the unfairness of the second penalty, but even if it had gone their way, I’d say that with the majority of the quality scoring chances belonging to the U.S., it would most likely not have gone Germany’s way anyways.

How do you think the game should have gone?  Any thoughts on the game or other controversial calls in big matches?  Leave them in the comments below!