World Cup: Jurgen Klinsmann on French-speaking referee for Belgium game: "We hope it's not a concern"

SALVADOR, Brazil – United States head coach Jurgen Klinsmann said Monday he’s potentially wary of FIFA’s assignment of Algerian official Djamel Haimoudi for the Americans’ knockout round game against Belgium, in part because both the head referee and the Belgian players speak French.

FIFA assigned Haimoudi the match on Tuesday (4 pm ET, ESPN/Univision in US, CBC in Canada) after he worked the Netherlands’ 3-2 win over Australia and a scoreless draw between Costa Rica and England during the group stage.

Neither match had any notably controversial moments, but Klinsmann said the shared language between Haimoudi and the Belgian players has not gone unnoticed in the United States camp.

“We hope it’s not a concern,” Klinsmann said. “We know he already did two games and he did them very well. So we wish that he continues his refereeing in a perfect way.

“But is it a good feeling? No. He’s coming from the same group with Belgium and Algeria … and he’s able to speak French with their players on the field and not with us. And it’s a country that we beat in the last second at the last World Cup. I understand FIFA and I know it’s difficult to always choose the right referee for the right games, and it’s always been kind of tricky for FIFA. But it is what it is. We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, and we respect the decision. We’re going to hope that everything goes well.”

Belgian head coach Marc Wilmots, meanwhile, brushed aside any potential controversies with the assignment of Haimoudi, who is officiating in his first World Cup.

“The referee isn’t there to talk, he’s there to referee,” Wilmots said. “Whether he speaks the same language … if you start talking about that it’s just finding excuses before the game.”


Stay connected: Get access to breaking news, videos, and analysis from North America's best soccer reporters via "This Week in MLS" newsletter or using our FREE mobile app.