Referees in unwanted spotlight ahead of FIFA Women's World Cup final
A run of controversial calls has raised worries that officiating has not kept pace with the quality of play at the Women's World Cup, putting an unwanted spotlight on referees ahead of Sunday's final.
Both the United States and Japan reached the championship match with help from arguable calls in their semi-finals that have put into question the overall caliber of officiating.
All World Cup matches staged at six venues across Canada have been officiated by women and FIFA said it has no plans to bring in more experienced male officials for crucial matches.
"Right now not at all," Tatjana Haenni, FIFA's head of women's competitions, said when asked about the possibility of using both male and female officials.
"Now that women's football becomes so popular I see it as a risk that we now have the discussion why don't we have more male referees.
"On the women's refereeing side we now have to decide do we give more opportunities to the women's referees to be at the top level of the game or do we still not do enough and at one point women will have huge difficulties to be at the top level."
The United States benefited from two crucial decisions by Romanian referee Teodora Albon in their 2-0 semi-final win over top-ranked Germany on Tuesday in Montreal.
The Americans took the lead when captain Carli Lloyd scored a penalty after Albon ruled that Annike Krahn had obstructed Alex Morgan. Replays showed the offence took place outside the box.
Minutes earlier US defender Julie Johnston was adjudged to have pulled down Alexandra Popp but escaped with a yellow card even though she was the last defender and should have been sent off.
In their 2-1 win over England, Japan grabbed the lead through a controversial penalty when Claire Rafferty nudged Saori Ariyoshi in the back and New Zealand referee Anna-Marie Keighley pointed to the penalty spot.
Television replays, however, showed the foul had taken place outside of the penalty area but England's protests were dismissed as Aya Miyami fired home the penalty.
Seven minutes later another debatable penalty award brought England level. Captain Steph Houghton went down easily inside the box, possibly after her heel was clipped by Yuki Ogimi, and Fara Williams coolly converted.
Massimo Busacca, FIFA's Head of Refereeing who officiated at two World Cups, acknowledged that overall quality of officiating needed upgrading but had assured that the referees for the semi-finals and final were up to the challenge.
"For me they are doing well," Busacca told a small group of reporters at technical briefing on Tuesday. "Round of 16, quarter-finals we did not have big complaints the results were correct. The referee who remain now know what they are doing.
"They are the best, I am not afraid to say they will do a great game in the final."