Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson has been assigned by FIFA as the center referee for the United States against Ghana in Natal on Monday.
The official was the center of controversy earlier this year when he refereed the first leg of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie between Manchester City and Barcelona. In that match Eriksson sent off Blues defender Martin Demichelis reducing City to ten men early in the second half. Normally placid Manchester City Manager Manuel Pellegrini raged at the decision and the overall performance of Eriksson.
“The referee did not have any control of the game. He decided for Barcelona from the beginning to the end. I think it was not a good idea to put a referee from Sweden in such an important match and a referee who made a mistake against Barcelona in the group stages. From the beginning I felt the referee was not impartial to both teams. The referee decided the game. Before the penalty, it was a foul on Navas when he was three meters from the play so he could see it. And it was not a penalty, it was outside the box.”
Eriksson had been the center of controversy in 2012 when he failed to award Barcelona two penalties in a knock-out stage match against AC Milan. In 2012, Eriksson took charge of multiple matches at the Euro 2012 tournament but has never before officiated a World Cup match. He is a full-time referee and is considered the top official in his home nation and has been assigned to UEFA Champions League matches for each of the past four seasons.
The United States has been eliminated from each of the last two World Cups by Ghana. The United States has won just one of its last eight World Cup openers, that lone victory coming in 2002 against Portugal who will be the American’s second opponent in Group G.