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Canada suffers semifinal heartbreak at 2012 London Olympics

American Alex Morgan’s extra-time header gave the United States a 4-3 victory over Canada to send the defending Olympic champions into the London 2012 gold medal game on Thursday. Canada will play for bronze.

Deep into second half extra-time stoppage time, Morgan found space in the box and got on the end of a cross from midfield substitute Heather O’Reilly to head the USA into the championship game and a FIFA World Cup final re-match against Japan.

The goal canceled out an incredible hat-trick effort from Canadian captain and former Vancouver Whitecaps FC striker Christine Sinclair, who fired Canada into the lead three times, responding twice to American equalizing goals.

Perhaps the most contentious moment of the game took place in the 80th minute when Canadian keeper Erin McLeod was called for delay of game for not clearing the ball fast enough. The resulting play was an American free kick inside the Canadian box that led to a handball penalty call.

American striker Abby Wambach slotted home the penalty kick to knot the game at 3-3 and send the contest into extra time, where the USA were eventually able to prevail. Sinclair’s third goal of the game was a 73rd-minute strike that gave Canada a one-goal advantage that they were only able to protect for seven minutes before the penalty call that created the tying goal.

The Canadian captain also scored on a 67th-minute cross from forward Melissa Tancredi and a 22nd-minute play, where she calmly stepped around the final American defender and fired the ball past American goalkeeper Hope Solo.

Sinclair’s three-goal performance now puts her on 143 goals for Canada, tying her with Wambach for second all-time on the international scoring list.

American midfielder Megan Rapinoe turned in a two-goal performance for the winning side, including a 70th-minute equalizing blast and a 54th-minute corner that the Canadian defenders and McLeod were not able to deal with, watching the ball cross the goal line before they could clear.

Nine former Whitecaps FC players appeared in Monday’s semifinal at Old Trafford – home of English Premier League giants Manchester United FC.

The win sets up a re-match of the World Cup final for the Americans at London’s Wembley Stadium, as they will face a Japanese side that qualified for the gold medal game earlier with a 2-1 victory over France.

Canada will play for their first-ever medal in Olympic Games women’s soccer when they take on France in the bronze medal game in Coventry, England, on Thursday at 5 a.m. PT.