Former Liverpool coach Gerard Houllier called for a debate on the idea of a fourth substitute in extra-time given the intensity teams have shown in this World Cup.
“We are here to entertain people. If only at extra-time you are allowed one more player, I think it is a good idea,” he said here on Wednesday.
Substitutes have played a greater role in this World Cup with Houllier pointing out that 23 goals from them so far is a lot more than the “usual 10%” we are used to seeing. “Probably that’s why we are seeing so many goals in the last 15 minutes. The physical demands at top level are such that you now need specialists,” he said sharing thoughts along with former Nigeria skipper Sunday Oliseh about the games so far.
Houllier and Oliseh are part of Fifa’s Technical Study Group that will prepare a report on the 2014 World Cup. The report will be circulated to all member associations with a session planned for coaches after the World Cup. The one for Asia will be held in Kuala Lumpur between September 29 and October 3 this year, said a Fifa spokesperson.
Part of the study group since 1994, Houllier said, of the nine World Cups he has seen, this has been the best in terms of entertainment.
“Some games have been like basketball, the Germany-Ghana tie for example. Teams have worked well on transitions, the magic moment in football is when one team loses the ball and the other has it and that has led to high-tempo games. Teams going forward have been rewarded,” he said.
To that Oliseh added: “I thought teams would be economical in expending energy in the first round because of the conditions. But players seem really prepared; there’s barely been an argument about this being the end of a long season. It’s been end to end stuff and through combination play. The energy the USA and Belgium showed till the end was beautiful.”
Houllier said the World Cup is also fortunate to have seen such a generation of great strikers. He rated Colombia’s James Rodrigues running between lines of midfielders and defenders to volley the first goal against Uruguay “as one of the best goals along with Tim Cahill’s against Holland.” With five goals and two assists, Rodrigues, 22, is now the competition’s highest scorer.
The offensive play also has a lot to do with formations propelling them and so coaches deserve credit. “In the game between Mexico and Holland, you could see both coaches reacting to each other, reading each other and changing responsibility of the players,” said Oliseh.
Asked whether they thought the attractive football here could be a one-off because this is the game’s spiritual home, Houllier and Oliseh said the World Cup gives you the rhythm of evolution of football. “These strikers will be there in the next World Cup too. All I know is that South American teams have shown more bite here which I don’t see when they travel. Maybe bite is not a good word to use for Uruguay but all these countries have shown the energy. I mean Chile. They are out of the competition but seemed to summarise everything about this World Cup: audacious technique, good spirit and energy,” said Houllier.
And the idea of playing as a team, said Oliseh. “If you have a player like Messi or Neymar, you are bound to rely on them but this tournament has been about teams performing as a unit.”