Do substitutes really make an impact?
It is a quandary that has managers across the world tearing their hair out.Brazil ? The football powerhouse! | Picturesindia Updated: Jun 08, 2006 23:45 IST
It is a quandary that has had managers across the football world tearing their hair out for years. When things are not going according to plan, what should they do to change it? Whom should they bring on? And when should they make the changes?
At the World Cup, which begins in Germany on Friday, a nation's success or failure could hinge on a coach's ability to make the right decisions at the right time.
If a substitute comes off the bench to score the winning goal, he will be hailed as a hero. But if he fails to make the difference, the coach will be criticised.
Football fans around the world are great armchair pundits and the world's press will be waiting to pick holes in a coach's tactical cunningness.
After a long season of club competition, many teams in Germany will have players who are carrying minor injuries and as a result may start on the bench, ready to come on and make the difference.
But just how useful are they at World Cup finals?
|Brazil - 1st|
|Czech Republic - 2nd|
|Holland - 3rd|
|Mexico - 4th|
Ever since Mexico's Juan Basaguren came off the bench to net the last goal in a 4-0 win over El Salvador in 1970, substitutes have played a considerable role in a coach's thinking.
Some of their influence must stem from their ability.
Italy will have Alessandro Del Piero and Filippo Inzaghi to call on when needed and Brazil could have Inter Milan striker Adriano ready to come on if, perish the thought, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaka and Robinho are struggling to find the net.
That is some pretty serious firepower.
There is evidence to suggest that the influence of substitutes is growing as the pace of the game heats up.
Not counting extra-time goals, in the 1998 World Cup in France, there were just 15 goals by substitutes, while in 2002, in Japan and Korea, there were 21.
Are teams becoming more attack-minded, or was Japan and Korea an anomaly?
If we look at the qualifying campaign for this summer's finals, 2,464 goals were scored in 847 games. Of those, 321 were scored by substitutes, an average of one goal every 2.63 games.
If we translate that to Germany over the next month, that would work out at 24.33 goals scored by substitutes.
Of course, the qualifying campaign does not have quite the intensity of the finals but if anything, intensity would appear to make teams more defensive.
Of the 15 substitute goals at France '98, 13 were scored in the opening stages with the other two in the last 16. None came after that, when a defeat means the end of a team's campaign for another four years.
In 2002, all but one of the 21 substitute goals came in the group stages.
With betting on sport, and in particular football, such a big deal these days, it is no surprise that one of Britain's spread betting firms have set a market on the number of goals to be scored by substitutes this summer, not including extra time.
They make it 17-18.5, well below what would appear to be the trend, but perhaps around the average over a longer period.
Are they right, or are substitutes finally having their day?