Jurgen Klinsmann has shown concerns with FIFA's decision to assign Algerian referee Djamel Haimoudi to Tuesday's USA-Belgium round of 16 match.SALVADOR, Brazil — Jurgen Klinsmann generally spends his pre-match press conferences smiling and spreading plaudits and proclamations about his team being ready to play, and he rarely shows a stern face. But when he was asked about potential concerns with the assigning of Algerian referee Djamel Haimoudi, Klinsmann’s mood turned serious.
The U.S. coach expressed his doubts about FIFA’s decision to assign Haimoudi to Tuesday’s round of 16 match between the Americans and Belgium.
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“Is it a good feeling? No, because he’s coming from the same group as Belgium and Algeria — which deserves a huge compliment for going through to the next round. He’s able to speak French with their players on the field, not with us,” Klinsmann said of the referee. “And it’s the country that we beat in the last second in the last World Cup. So sometimes I don’t understand FIFA. It's difficult obviously to choose the right referees for the right games and it’s always been kind of tricky for FIFA, but It is what it is.
“We give him absolutely the benefit of the doubt,” Klinsmann added. “We respect the decision and we’re going to be spot on in the game and hope that everything goes well.”
Klinsmann’s comments come on the heels of a Sunday that saw two CONCACAF teams suffer at the hands of controversial calls. Costa Rica had a player sent off in the second half of an eventual penalty shootout victory, while Mexico saw its World Cup ended by a penalty call against Rafa Marquez, a decision that led to El Tri manager Miguel Herrera blasting the Portuguese referee for the penalty call and criticized FIFA for having a European referee officiate a match between a European team and CONCACAF team.
U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati wouldn’t dive in completely into the fray, saying only that Klinsmann said everything that needed to be said regarding Halmoudi.
“It’s hard, because there are more European referees here than from any other [confederation],” Gulati said on Monday. “That situation yesterday in the Mexico game, it was a European referee and people were concerned about that. But FIFA abandoned the rule about having only people from different confederations because so many of the top referees come from the top leagues, many of which are in Europe.”
The language barrier does bring up an interesting point, with most of the Belgium team being able to communicate with Haimoudi in French, while Alejandro Bedoya is the only projected U.S. starter who speaks French, only having started learning the language after joining Ligue 1 side Nantes last summer.
Klinsmann’s comments will now put a spotlight on Haimoudi, who will be working his third match of the World Cup. And if the bit of gamesmanship puts more pressure on Haimoudi to avoid mistakes, then Klinsmann will likely come away having accomplished what he sought to accomplish.
“We hope it’s not a concern,” Klinsmann said of Haimoudi’s officiating of Tuesday’s match. “We know he already did two games and he did them very well. So we wish that he continues his refereeing the a perfect way he has so far.”