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Jozy Altidore expected to play for Team USA against Belgium

Jozy Altidore speaks to members of the media

Jozy Altidore speaks to members of the media before a training session at Stanford Stadium in Stanford, California on Thursday, May 15, 2014. Credit: Getty Images

SALVADOR, Brazil - Jozy Altidore has been declared eligible to play for the United States in its Round of 16 match against Belgium on Tuesday.

Whether he will see any action or make an impact in the do-or-die match at Arena Fonte Nova is anyone's guess.

On Monday, 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. "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 [Tuesday] 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.

There are other factors that could determine the outcome of the match.

USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann is concerned about the nationality of the referee and the language he speaks. The match also pits the teams on opposite ends of the Cup travel spectrum and brings together squads that have not played in similar weather conditions.

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 USA'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, saying: "Talking about that, it's finding an excuse before the game."

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

"It's what we deal with all the time, whether it's the World Cup preparation or the qualifying games," USA captain Clint Dempsey said. "We had one game in Jamaica and we then had one in Seattle. Players are playing overseas and have to travel back to the States. They're used to the long travel."

The Americans played their games in heat and humidity in the north, and the Belgians have played in cooler venues in the south.

"We dealt with every condition during this World Cup," Dempsey said. "We're used to dealing with those [hot and humid] conditions during the qualifying process."

Wilmots doesn't think the heat will favor either team.

"We should not complain," he said. "Both teams will be suffering from the heat. We shouldn't look for excuses."

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