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


photo by Perry McIntyre/


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.


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.


  1. SBI Troll–how wrong you are. Take the case of the Malian referee in the Slovenia-USA match. He missed an elbow by Dempsey (that should have been a yellow card). He called a handball on Findley and gave him a yellow card (so he’s now out of the Algeria match) when the ball hit him in the face. He clearly blew the final call on a game that is more than just a blow call, if the US doesn’t advance to the 2nd round (or if Slovenia should advance over England) will have had momentous impacts. That’s not “one blow call” that’s a litany of terrible misses or poor calls.

    The referee in the Germany-Slovenia match has a history of being “card happy.” 8 cards in one match (that was not especially rough and this particular German team has a relatively good reputation for clean play) is clearly over the top.

    I played soccer, I coached soccer, I’ve written about soccer (college paper) and I’m a fan. I’ve always been a believer that:
    –players have more influence in the game than referees do and players make more mistakes in a game that referees do
    –if you play long enough and play the right way, breaks eventually even out

    That said, the referees in the two matches I just listed (USA-Sovenia, and Germany-Serbia) had poor matches and it wasn’t just “one blown call.”

  2. The Brazil-Portugal game should be interesting given that one of them may have to play Spain in the next round. Spain will finish second in its group if it ties Chile and Honduras ties Switzerland or beats them. A Brazil-Portugal winner, or Brazil in a tie will then have to play Spain, leading one to wonder how motivated Brazil will be. Of course, there is still a chance that Spain wins its group or doesn’t quality at all. Without knowing the Spanish position ahead of time, it will be interesting to see how Brazil and Portugal approach that game.

  3. Actually, i wasn’t talking about the Slovenia game but just officiating the WC in general. One minute nobody knows who you are, the next people want your head on a stick.

  4. Mexico also lost to Argentina, 3-0, in a semifinal during the last Copa America. I highly doubt they will play for a draw.

  5. Who is this Giuseppi Rossi you speak of?

    Oh, you mean the boy from New Jersey that wanted nothing to do with us? I only know of him as ________ ____

  6. oranje: a ref behind or besides the net would be perfect. or if we want to get really CRAZY a ref watching a camera positioned above the net with a birds-eye view of the box.

    FIFA needs to get with the times. technology allows games to be called more fairly.

  7. An official on each end line and 3 officials on the field. I’m tired of the excuses. Basketball is played just as fast and calls are made just as quickly as in football. They get it right more often because there’s more of them on the court. The chances that the football referee is out of position or doesn’t see what’s going on behind his back is too high to continue like this.

  8. Portugal/Brazil on Friday will be the most boring game. I’m sure Dunga and Queiroz are discussing “strategy” over a pint right now.

  9. Neither team will want to concede a single goal, but Mexico is going to press the game. They want first in the group, and Uruguay has that position because of their GD.

  10. Or FIFA could just bring in referees to patrol behind each net that could help make sure evaluations of credability are not needed. Too easy?

  11. Wait, everyone already knew that didn’t they? Also, I should I read more carefully before I get to the comments section.

  12. Mexico currently has a GD of 2 and Uruguay 3. So, if they tie Mex almost certainly gets Argentina. Having been taken out by them in 2006, I doubt they want to start the Rd of 16 there. I think they will do their best to win.

  13. Coulibaly was the fourth official in the Italy/New Zealand game. You could see him standing on the pitch before kick-off right in front of the camera.

  14. I have one way Italy can get over this poor stretch and his name is Guiseppi Rossi, the only italian player I have ever seen not dive and cry like a 2 year old.

  15. Anybody see AC Milan has lined up their next coach?

    Name’s Massimiliano Allegri coming over from Cagliari. Don’t know anything about him, but hopefully Gooch gets a fair chance. Leonardo really seemed to open to Gooch before the injury so it’s a shame that didn’t work out.

  16. I’m having a bit of fun with France’s situation. Almost as much fun as seeing the English national anxiety after being so over-confident coming into the cup.

    I think they should redo the Nike ‘Write the Future’ ad so it just stops with Rooney poking his scruffy bearded out of his trailer home. He looks next door and see Ribery & Anelka lying on a beat up sofa in front of their trailer, throwing rocks at a rumpled Domenech who’s scavaging the trash for recyclables. A rock glances off Domenech’s head and splashes a puddle that sends a celebratory fountain plume of glistening water up in front of a billboard showing the U.S. players congratulating their Slovenian opponents after the U.S. wins the most dramatic final in history. Behind the billboard sits a listless, confused Koman Coulibaly in a tattered FIFA ref uniform, blowing a whistle at imaginary players.

  17. Whether or not anything happens with Kaka’s red card, the Ivorian player ought to be suspended for his pathetic display. These kinds of actions of faking/simulation need to be harshly punished. Start suspending guys after the fact for multiple games and suddenly this crap will start happening a lot less often.

  18. To be fair, I wouldn’t call that incident time-wasting — that guy had a broken leg. But the ref should have added the time on for sure.

    But yeah, there was more than just the phantom foul on the free-kick. Robbie Findley’s yellow card for an intentional faceball was pretty terrible too.

  19. One bad call!!!??? Their was a lot more than one bad call!

    1) Dempsey should have been carded when he led with his elbow on a header in the openning minutes of the match. At least a yellow with a stern talking to.

    2) Findley received a yellow for an intentional handball that clearly hit his face.

    3) The winning goal being disallowed on a phantom foul on the USA.

    4) In the 3 minutes of injury time, a Slovenian player was down for at least 2 minutes of it. He called the game at exactly 93 minutes.

    Refereeing at any level is about game management. Missing calls will happen to even the best of refs. I can understand and accept a missed call or two but at his level he made some glaring mistakes. To go the entire game without speaking a word to any of the players mystifies me. As a referee myself, besides the option of cautioning or sending off a player a look, body language a word here or there and sometimes stern words are just as effective as issueing cards. I know there’s been suggestions that he may have only spoken French and couldn’t talk to the players. If that is the case than FIFA really f-ed up.

  20. “I don’t look at reputation or anything that has gone before,” De Bleeckere said. “I will watch the previous games of USA and Algeria to help me understand their tactics and work on my positioning. But I will watch ‘Gladiator’ first.”

    Uhh… interesting!

  21. He gave a card to Findley for the “handball.” The situation pictured in that article is when Donovan (and the whole bar I was in) was shocked the Slovenian player wasn’t shown straight red for tackling Jozy and being the final defensive player.

  22. Coulibaly probably had second thoughts on the free kick award to the USA so he tried to “cancel” it by calling a (make-up) “foul” (pick a foul, any foul) on the kick.

    Not that any ref would admit it but I bet that’s what happened.

    And I’ll be surprised of either Uruguay or Mexico make any real effort to score a goal. This game should be extremely boring.

  23. Landon Donovan in the Yahoo article attached looks like his head is about to explode after Koman Coulibaly gave his one and only card to the US in the match. I hope big Frank from Belgium doesn’t get crazy and give the US more yellow cards than he gives Algeria. I would hate to see Lady Cakes crying out there.

  24. Glad to see De Bleeckere assigned for the next US game, we’d better not see Coulibaly again this World Cup. Would love to see Mexico and Uruguay tie and send the cheating French home! My next wish would be to send those cheating Italians packing…

  25. Yeah, but I think both teams are gunning to win the group. Neither team wants to face Argentina in the 1st round of the knockout stage. They would much rather face South Korea/Greece.

  26. I don’t think that will be case, cause who ever comes out second will have to face Argentina. So you are looking for the best match up.

  27. Yes, that was not just “one bad call.” It was absolutely mysterious, a complete fabrication that he did not even try to (because he could not) explain. Referees miss things, or make questionable judgment calls, and while it’s still exceedingly difficult, you can almost live with that because, well, he saw it one way, and you saw it another way. But in Coulibaly’s case, the replay shows nothing even approaching a foul by the US, and instead shows at least one pull-down and perhaps two other bear hugs by Slovenia. If his reputation is shot, it’s because he conjured up a game-deciding call out of his own imagination.

  28. on a world stage……that’s the chance he takes.

    The athletes train time and time again for a shot every 4 years…you’d expect refs to do the same.


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