SALVADOR, Brazil (AP) — U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann is worried about the Algerian referee assigned to the Americans’ second-round World Cup match against Belgium on Tuesday.
FIFA announced Sunday that Djamel Haimoudi will work the game. Haimoudi is a veteran of the last two African Cups of Nations and worked a pair of group-stage matches at this year’s World Cup.
Klinsmann said Monday the French-speaking referee will be able to communicate better with the Belgians, comes from a nation that was in the same first-round group with Belgium and is from a country eliminated by the U.S. at the 2010 tournament. “Well, we hope it’s not a concern,” Klinsmann said at a news conference. “Is it a good feeling? No.”
Belgian coach Marc Wilmots dismissed Klinsmann’s comments. “If we start going into this, it is looking for excuses ahead of the match,” Wilmots said. “So to us, if it happens, too bad. We will shut up and return and try to get qualified again. This is football.
“I rarely talk to referees. That is one thing. The three referees in the group stage, I never talked to them. And a referee is not there to talk, but to referee.”
Haimoudi, 43, worked at the Africa Cup of Nations in 2008 and 2012 and refereed Italy’s third-place win over Uruguay at last year’s Confederations Cup. At this World Cup, he officiated the Netherlands’ 3-2 win over Australia and Costa Rica’s 0-0 draw with England.
“We know that he did already two games so far, and he did them very well, so we wish that he continues his refereeing the perfect way he’s done so far,” Klinsmann said.
“I understand FIFA. It’s difficult always to choose the right referee for the right games, and it’s always being kind of tricky for FIFA, but it is what it is,” he added. “We give it absolutely the benefit of the doubt. We respect the decision, and we’re going to be spot on in the game and hope that everything works well.”
U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati, a member of FIFA’s ruling executive committee, did not want to discuss Klinsmann’s thoughts, saying merely: “I think he said everything that needs to be said on that.”
Two years ago, the Court of Arbitration for Sport said Haimoudi “claimed to have been assaulted” by Al-Hilal team president Mohammed Al-Birair during an African Champions League semifinal. The CAS upheld Al-Birair’s appeal and overturned a four-year suspension imposed by the Confederation of African Football in January 2012, ruling “it is not convinced to the standard of ‘comfortable satisfaction’ that the appellant was the assailant responsible for the incident.”
The last time an African referee worked a U.S. match at the World Cup, the Americans complained when Koman Coulibaly of Mali disallowed an apparent go-ahead goal in the 85th minute of a 2-2 draw against Slovenia four years ago. Coulibaly never explained his decision.
AP Sports Writers Ronald Blum and Raf Casert contributed to this report.