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Big Boost For USMNT: Jozy Altidore Will Play Against Belgium

Getty Images via Zimbio

Getty Images via Zimbio

The U.S. received some welcome news on Monday, when it was announced that striker Jozy Altidore would be available to play on Tuesday when they take on Belgium in Salvador.

The team relayed the exciting news via Twitter:

Twitter: @ussoccer

Twitter: @ussoccer

Altidore has been out since suffering a strained hamstring in the 21st minute of play against Ghana on June 16th. There was concern that he could miss the entire tournament, so his sudden availability is a welcome surprise.

Although the team has done well in his absence, surviving and advancing from the Group of Death against all odds, Altidore’s return couldn’t have come at a better time. The U.S. hasn’t defeated Belgium since 1930, and they were handily defeated 4-2 in May 2013.

Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that there’s a massive ocean in between “ready and available” and “ready to start.” Altidore has not been announced as the starter and coach Jurgen Klinsmann has yet to comment on his return.

Klinsmann has, however, made public his concerns about the Algerian referee assigned to the match. According to a report by CBS Sports, Djamel Haimoudi was assigned by FIFA, and his worry is that the Belgians will have a decided advantage in communicating with the French-speaking referee.

“Well, we hope it’s not a concern,” Klinsmann said at his news conference. “Is it a good feeling? No.”

Belgium’s coach Marc Wilmots was quick to shut down Klinsmann’s concerns, dismissing them as preemptive excuse-making.

“If we start going into this, it is looking for excuses ahead of the match,” Wilmots said. “So to us, if it happens, too bad. We will shut up and return and try to get qualified again. This is football.

“I rarely talk to referees. That is one thing. The three referees in the group stage, I never talked to them. And a referee is not there to talk, but to referee.”

To be fair, Wilmots is right. Klinsmann is the guy who didn’t give his team a snowball’s chance in hell of winning prior to the start of the World Cup, so how much damage could the referee do to a team he expected to lose?

We’ll see if the language barrier becomes an issue and how effective Altidore will be when the U.S. takes on Belgium tomorrow, July 1st, at 4:00 PM EST. The match will air on ESPN.

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