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Jozy Altidore cleared to play, but not sure how much

Published on -7/1/2014, 10:06 AM

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SALVADOR, Brazil (MCT) -- Jozy Altidore has been declared eligible to play for the United States in its Round of 16 confrontation against Belgium today.

Whether he will see any action or make an impact in the do-or-die match at Arena Fonte Nova is anyone's guess, although there are other factors that could very well determine the outcome of the match.

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann was concerned about the nationality and the spoken language of the referee. The match pits the teams on opposite ends of the Cup travel spectrum and brings together squads that have not played in similar weather conditions.

Klinsmann delivered some encouraging news about Altidore, who strained his left hamstring in a 2-1 win over Ghana on June 16.

"We don't know how much, but he is available," Klinsmann said Monday. "This is what we want. This is what we hoped for. This is what the medical staff is working (on). They have done a tremendous job. They worked day and night on Jozy.

"Just having him with us tomorrow is huge. How many minutes, we'll see that during the game."

Altidore certainly isn't expected to start, but he would be able to come off the bench.

A good 24 hours before referee Djamel Haimoudi could make a call, the Algerian already was involved in a controversy. Klinsmann indicated that the game official might be compromised.

"We hope it's not a concern," he said. "We know he already did two games so far and he did them very well. We wish he continues his refereeing the perfect way he's done so far.

"Is it a good feeling? No, because he's coming from the same group with Belgium and Algeria. He is able to speak French with their players on the field, not with us. It's the country that we beat in the last second of the last World Cup."

Klinsmann was referring to the U.S.'s 1-0 win over Algeria on Landon Donovan's dramatic stoppage-time goal in South Africa in 2010.

"I know it's difficult to choose referees for the right games," he said. "It's always kind of tricky for FIFA. We will give him absolutely the benefit of the doubt."

Belgian coach Marc Wilmots took a swipe at Klinsmann. "Talking about that, it's finding an excuse before the game," Wilmots said.

In a contrast of extremes, the game will pit the team that has traveled the most miles during the Cup, the U.S. (close to 10,000) against the side that has traveled the least, Belgium (about 2,000).

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