Afternoon Ticker: USA-Algeria ref assigned, Pirlo practicing and more

Afternoon Ticker: USA-Algeria ref assigned, Pirlo practicing and more

European Soccer

Afternoon Ticker: USA-Algeria ref assigned, Pirlo practicing and more

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photo by Perry McIntyre/ISIphotos.com

by FRANCO PANIZO

In response to the controversy stirred in the United States-Slovenia match. FIFA has assigned Belgian referee Frank De Bleeckere to officiate the Americans' critical Group C match against Algeria on June 23.

Bleeckere is considered to be a highly experienced and respected referee, and he officiated in Argentina's 4-1 victory over South Korea earlier in the tournament. He has also been the referee for big matches at the club level, including a Barcelona-Chelsea Champions League game in 2006.  

Mali referee Koman Coulibaly, who made the controversial call in the 2-2 draw between the United States and Slovenia, has yet to be assigned a match in the final round of group fixtures.

Here are some more stories from Monday:

Pirlo practicing again

Coming off an upsetting and surprising draw with New Zealand, Italy received a boost ahead of its final group match with Andrea Pirlo returning to training.

Pirlo has missed the first two matches of the World Cup with a calf injury, but his return to training could see him fit enough to start in the pivotal match against Slovakia. Italy will reach the Round of 16 with a win over the Slovaks, while a draw could see it advance if Paraguay ties New Zealand.

Pirlo's absence has been felt by the Italians in their first two Group F matches as they have lacked creativity and are yet to score a goal from the run of play in the pair of 1-1 draws.

Upson to start vs. Slovenia

Matthew Upson will start for England in its critical Group C match against Slovenia on Wednesday, Fabio Capello confirmed. Upson will replace center back Jamie Carragher, who is suspended for the game due to yellow card accumulation. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Upson will be paired with John Terry against Slovenia, marking the third different partnership in central defense for England at this World Cup.

Wolves sign Hunt

Wolverhampton Wanderers have bolstered its attack for the upcoming Premier League season with the signing of forward Stephen Hunt. Having long been linked with a move to Wolves, Hunt joins the club from relegated Hull City for an undisclosed transfer fee. He is the club's fifth signing this summer.

France returns to training

A day after refusing to practice, the French national team players resumed training without any drama. Shocking, yes. France plays South Africa on Tuesday in a must-win match in Group A. Even victory won't guarantee Les Bleus of advancing to the Round of 16, as a tie between Uruguay and Mexico would eliminate France.

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Happy to see FIFA assign De Bleeckere? Think Pirlo can help solve Italy's troubles? How do you see Upson faring against Slovenia? Think Hunt is a good signing for Wolves? Expecting France to completely implode vs. South Africa?

Share your thoughts below.

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