Gerard Houllier, right, a member of the FIFA technical study group, said at a briefing Tuesday changing substitution rules could see fewer players struggle with muscle cramps in high-intensity matches. (Paul Ellis / Getty Images)
Rio de Janeiro — Substitutes have made a big impact at the World Cup, and there could be more of them in four years’ time.
FIFA’s coaching advisers will propose that teams can use a fourth substitute in extra time before the 2018 World Cup kicks off.
“I think that’s an idea that we will put” to football’s rules-making panel, Gerard Houllier, a member of the FIFA technical study group, said at a briefing on Tuesday.
Up to three replacements are currently allowed, even when knockout matches go to 30 extra minutes after scores are level in regulation time.
Houllier said changing the rules could see fewer players struggle with muscle cramps in high-intensity matches.
“It’s a good idea. Only in extra time. Maybe if someone is injured, why not?” the former France coach said.
So far, substitutes have scored 29 goals after coming off the bench in Brazil, already a World Cup record with eight matches left to play. The previous mark was 23 at the 2006 tournament in Germany, FIFA said.
“Substitutes play such an important part because they come with a freshness and attitude,” Houllier said. “Nearly a quarter of (all) the goals have been scored in the final 15 minutes of the game.”
Those goals by subs have often been game-changing, rather than additional scores in blowout victories.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar came on late when the Netherlands was losing 1-0 to Mexico in the round of 16 on Sunday. Huntelaar teed up Wesley Sneijders for an 88th-minute leveler, then scored the decisive stoppage-time penalty.
On Monday, Belgium could not beat inspired United States goalkeeper Tim Howard until substitute Romelu Lukaku was sent on in extra time, and quickly set up Kevin De Bruyne for the go-ahead goal, then scored the second in a 2-1 win.
The Americans also got a decisive late goal in its opening group match from defensive replacement John Brooks.
FIFA has asked Houllier’s group to propose ideas to football’s rules panel, which is known as IFAB.
The panel has previously rejected the fourth sub plan, though Houllier suggested it could be revisited.
“At this World Cup everything is going so quick, so fast, the tempo has been so high,” he said. “As a technician we would like to have in extra time the possibility to have another substitution.”
FIFA questions report on match-fixing
FIFA expressed “substantial doubts” Wednesday about a German magazine’s claims that a World Cup game could have been fixed and asked the publication to provide evidence to back up its report that a renowned match-fixer accurately predicted details of the match hours before it kicked off.
FIFA said it wants Der Spiegel to provide details of all its conversations with convicted match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal to prove its claim that Cameroon’s 4-0 loss to Croatia on June 18 may have been fixed.
“The article has put the integrity of FIFA World Cup matches in question, which is a serious allegation,” FIFA director of security Ralf Mutschke said in a statement read out at a briefing at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro by spokeswoman Delia Fischer.
FIFA said it had no indication from betting markets that any of the 56 games so far at the World Cup were suspicious and has “substantial doubts about the alleged manipulation published by Der Spiegel.”
The weekly magazine claimed that Perumal told it in a Facebook chat hours before the Cameroon-Croatia group game that he knew what was going to happen. Der Spiegel said that Perumal — a Singaporean who is arguably the best-known fixer in football — correctly predicted that Croatia would win 4-0 and Cameroon would have a player sent off in the first half. Cameroon midfielder Alex Song was red-carded just before halftime.
Perumal has denied he made any such predictions.
Suspicious betting activity around a game is an indication that it may have been fixed for illegal gambling syndicates. That could include an unusually large amount of money being bet on the game or wagers being placed at unusual times during the game or on specific happenings — like a first-half red card, for example.
But FIFA said it had found no suspicious activity around Cameroon-Croatia or any other game in Brazil. Football’s world body has access to information from hundreds of betting operators through its Zurich-based EWS, or “Early Warning System.”
“As mentioned on various occasions, FIFA has carefully monitored all 56 games to date and will continue to monitor the remaining eight matches of the 2014 FIFA World Cup,” Mutschke’s statement said. “So far, we have found no indication of any match manipulation on the betting market.”
The Der Spiegel story grabbed attention because of Perumal’s match-fixing history. He was jailed in Finland for paying players to fix games and is suspected of fixing games in other continents, including Africa. He is believed to be behind fixed matches involving South Africa’s national team in the weeks before the last World Cup in 2010, where corrupt referees are thought to have manipulated the games.
But in a statement Tuesday, Perumal said that his Facebook chat with a Der Spiegel reporter about Cameroon’s team took place three days after the game in question and not hours before it, as the magazine said. The authors of Perumal’s biography sent copies of the chat to The Associated Press where it was indeed dated June 21.
The Der Spiegel reporter whose name was published with the story, Rafael Buschmann, insisted his report was accurate, writing in an email to the AP: “We firmly stand by our assertion that Mr Perumal wrote in a Facebook chat with der Spiegel some hours before the world cup match Croatia vs Cameroon, that the result of the match will be a 4-0-victory for Croatia and that a player of Cameroon will get a red card in the first halftime.”
Buschmann didn’t respond to phone calls and emails to also provide copies of the conversation.
Der Spiegel’s claims prompted the Cameroon football federation to open an official investigation into possible match-fixing by its players. Perumal did say in the Facebook chat that seven Cameroon players were “rotten apples” and the team was “on the take.” However, in his later statement he said that was only an “educated guess” and he had no proof of that.
Cameroon lost all three of its games at the World Cup: 1-0 to Mexico, 4-0 to Croatia and 4-1 to host Brazil. But the results were not surprising considering the West African country’s poor World Cup record over the last two decades. It has won just one out of 15 games since 1990.
“It is stupid to think that anyone would have fixed Cameroon’s matches in Brazil,” said former Cameroon goalkeeper Joseph-Antoine Bell, who played in three World Cups. “Why would any normal person or group of persons be tempted to arrange to win against a team that would lose anyway?”
Group goes after ticket scalpers
Soccer’s world governing body said it is helping Brazil’s investigation of a ticket scalping ring believed to be reselling World Cup tickets.
FIFA spokeswoman Delia Fischer said the organization was “actively assisting” in the investigation and that FIFA representatives will meet with Brazilian officials to discuss its ticketing operations. She also cautioned Brazilian media not to jump to conclusions.
Camila Donato, a press officer of the Rio de Janeiro police department, said Wednesday that police arrested 11 suspected ticket scalpers on Tuesday and seized 100 tickets supplied by FIFA to sponsors, non-governmental organizations and members of the Brazilian squad’s technical commission.
Donato said police are investigating the possible involvement of FIFA officials and members of the Brazilian, Argentine and Spanish football federations.
She identified the leader of the ring as Algerian Mohamadou Lamine Fofana. Donato said the other 10 men are Brazilians, adding that all have been charged with money laundering, criminal conspiracy and ticket scalping.
Inspector Fabio Barucke who is heading the investigation, was quoted in a statement posted on the police department’s website as saying the ticket scalping ring made 1 million reals ($455,000) per game and that it used three Rio de Janeiro travel agencies “that sold the tickets at well above their face value.”
He said that the 11 men confessed that they organized similar schemes in four previous World Cup tournaments and that they made close to 200 million reals ($91 million) per World Cup.
According to Barucke, Fofana had free access to FIFA-restricted areas, such as the Copacabana Palace Hotel.
“We have reason to believe that a FIFA member was involved with the group,” the inspector said, adding that the car driven by Fofana had a sticker that allowed him to enter all private FIFA events.”
Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah will not call up Kevin-Prince Boateng in the future after their World Cup bust-up.
Back home after Ghana’s elimination, Appiah said Wednesday he will now only select players who are “disciplined, committed and ready to die for the country.”
“For now, Kevin-Prince Boateng is not part of my plans,” Appiah said.
Boateng, a Schalke forward, was thrown out of the team camp ahead of its final group game at the World Cup for insulting Appiah during a training session. AC Milan midfielder Sulley Muntari was also sent home for hitting an official.