Klinsmann on referee for U.S.-Belgium game: ‘Is it a good feeling? No.’


Algerian referee Djamel Haimoudi gestures during the Group D football match between Costa Rica and England on June 24. (ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

SALVADOR, Brazil — One day before the United States is set to take on Belgium in the World Cup’s knockout stage, U.S. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann expressed some reservations about the Algerian referee FIFA has assigned to the match, noting that four years ago the U.S. defeated Algeria in the tournament.

“Is it a good feeling? No,” Klinsmann said at a Monday news conference.

On Sunday FIFA announced that Algerian Djamel Haimoudi would work Tuesday’s game in Salvador. It will be Haimoudi’s third match of the tournament.

While Klinsmann praised what he’s seen from Haimoudi thus far in World Cup play, he noted a few concerns.

“We know that he did already two games so far, and he did them very well. So we wish that he continues his refereeing in the perfect way that he’s done so far,” Klinsmann said. “Is it a good feeling? No. Because he’s coming from the same group with Belgium, Algeria … He’s able to speak French with their players on the field, not with us. And it’s the country that we beat in the last second at the last World Cup.

“So sometimes I don’t understand FIFA. It’s difficult to choose the right referees for the right games. It’s always been tricky for FIFA. But it is what it is. We give it absolutely e benefit of the doubt, we respect the decision. We’re going to be spot on in the game and hope that everything goes well.”

Asked about Klinsmann’s comments, French-speaking Belgium Coach Marc Wilmots said: “I don’t talk to the referees. I don’t think the referee is there to talk. He is there to referee. … It’s just finding an excuse before the game. If [a bad call] happens [against either team], it happens. We will shut up and do better next time. That is football.”

This video will prepare you for the U.S. national team's next World Cup game, which is against Belgium. You'll sound like an expert to your friends and co-workers. (Tom LeGro/The Washington Post)

This marks Haimoudi’s first World Cup. He previously worked a draw between Costa Rica and England and the Netherlands’ win over Australia.

Sunil Gulati, president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, also addressed the matter Monday, though not quite as forcefully.

“I never disagree with Jurgen. Not publicly,” he joked. “I think he said everything that needs to be said on that.”

“He said it was awkward or whatever the word he used was. He also said the referee had done a very good job in the first two games and he expected to have the same to happen again. I think that’s all that needs to be said. It’s hard because there are more European referees here than any other country. So you get some of that, situations (like) yesterday: the Mexico game there 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 are in the top leagues, which many of them are in Europe.”

Gulati is a member of the FIFA’s executive committee, though he said he had no conversations about referee assignments in the lead-up to Tuesday’s match.

“They try to assign the best referees they can, given what they’ve done in the tournament, given potential conflicts, given what other games they’ve refereed and all those thing,” Gulati said. “That’s a pretty complex set of permutations.”

More on the World Cup:

World Cup live blog: Live updates from Monday’s games

France ousts Nigeria to reach quarterfinals

Suarez apologizes for biting Italian defender

U.S.-Belgium watch party in Dupont Circle scuttled by lack of funds

Referee becomes first American to handle a World Cup knockout match

Former Terps Zusi and Gonzalez shine for U.S. at World Cup

Dark horse Belgium has the talent but is relatively untested

Klinsmann says U.S. has ‘absolutely no fear’ entering knockout round

Video: Getting ready for Belgium, the U.S.’s next opponent

Rick Maese is a sports reporter for The Washington Post.
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