Fourth substitute in extra time is a good idea, says Gerard Houllier

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Former France and Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier believes it’s time the International Football Association Board reconsider the stance on allowing teams a fourth substitute during extra time.

It’s a concept that was proposed to the IFAB, the game’s law-making body, two years ago but it failed to win the necessary 75% majority and was not passed into law.

The policy behind the proposal is straightforward – to limit the risk of injury in the later stages of knockout games or finals.

Houllier, who is the senior member of FIFA’s technical study group TSG that analyzes trends and tactics at the World Cup, explained his rationale to a group of reporters, including Reuters, on Wednesday:

I think it would be a good idea and I think the TSG (through FIFA) will put it back to the board….

I personally think it’s time. You have probably noticed at this World Cup everything is so quick, the tempo has been so high and we have seen 29 goals scored by substitutes, a record….

But among the technicians, we think we should have the possibility of another substitution.

The problem, of course, is that nothing happens quickly or pain-free within the IFAB, which is notoriously conservative in its attitude to changing the laws. The hope is that the creation of Houllier’s TSG, which comprises the four British associations and four representatives from FIFA, will be the difference maker in speeding up the proposal process.

The advantage the fourth substitution proposal holds is that ultimately, it comes down to player health. In Brazil, FIFA went so far as to protect players from oppressive heat by instituting the now infamous ‘cooling break’, seen for the first time in last Sunday’s match between Holland and Mexico. The three minute chance to hydrate at the end of each half was clearly savored by the players, even if Louis van Gaal controversially used the opportunity to change tactics.

Of course, an extra substitute could create some backlash as fitter teams may deem it a hindrance to their game plans. Why should less fit teams be rewarded for their lack of preparation? The purists are also likely to argue that such a move creates a slippery slope.

But when it comes to player health and team safety, a single added sub allowed during the short window of extra time feels like a smart way to up the intensity and drama.

 

Ronaldo explains his new chin hair at World Cup

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Now that Cristiano Ronaldo has taken to sporting a reasonable hairstyle atop his head, people are talking about the foliage on his face.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

Ronaldo, 33, drew speculation when he stroked his chin following a goal in his hat trick performance against Spain in the World Cup opener. Some said he was demonstrating defiance against Lionel Messi posing with a goat (Greatest Of All Time) in a recent photograph.

Ronaldo scored again on Wednesday, and there was seemingly little doubt his goatee was a wink to the speculators. But what did it mean, CR7? From ESPN:

“This goatee? It’s a joke I had with [Ricardo] Quaresma. “We were in the sauna [before Friday’s match against Spain] and I started to shave and I left the goatee. I said if I score tomorrow, I would leave it for the rest of the tournament. And it gave me luck.

“I scored in that game, I scored in this one, so it stays.”

Personally, I like to imagine Ronaldo starting to get as wild with his facial hair as he did his head hair.

Perhaps a beatnik style, or something like Serj Tankian from System of a Down. Get nuts, C-Ron.

Report: Southampton could sell Tadic to Ajax for $20m

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Could Southampton be selling one of its most creative forces?

Dusan Tadic, 29, is in the middle of a World Cup run with dark horse Serbia, but the Saints star is also being talked about as a purchase item for Ajax.

[ MORE: Serbia tops Costa Rica ]

The celebrated Eredivisie has traditionally been a selling club for the Premier League, but could be a $20 million buy for Ajax.

The report says director of players Marc Overmars and financial director Jeroen Slop have flown to Southampton to work out a deal.

Tadic starred for Dutch sides Groningen and Twente between 2010-14 before moving to St. Mary’s for a reported $12 million.

He’s scored 24 goals with 35 assists in 162 appearances for Saints, 21 and 30 of which came in the Premier League.

Toronto locks down USMNT backstop Bono with extension

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Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono is going to stay Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The newly-capped USMNT backstop, 24, has been attracting interest from abroad since breaking past Clint Irwin to win the TFC job and guiding the club to multiple MLS Cup Finals.

Now general manager Tim Bezbatchenko has locked down his young goalkeeper to an undisclosed contract extension. From TorontoFC.com:

“Alex was a big part of our success last season. He set club records for wins and clean sheets and was a critical piece of our championship team,” said Toronto FC Sr. Vice-President, Soccer Operations & General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “Since joining the club as a first round pick in 2015, Alex’s ability to make key saves in big moments has been critical to our success.”

The Syracuse-born product of Syracuse University has made 64 appearances for the Reds.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 8 — Argentina on the edge; France aims for berth

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France, Denmark, and Croatia can clinch knockout round berths on Thursday in Russia, the last nation also holding the opportunity to help deprive the World Cup of an extended Lionel Messi run.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Messi’s Argentina drew Iceland in its opener, the megastar infamously missing a penalty, and will look to beat a Croatian side that looked quite good in dispatching Nigeria.

That’s the final match of the day, which begins with Denmark facing Australia and continues with a tasty match-up between France and Peru.

Below is Thursday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group C
Denmark vs. Australia: Samara, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
France vs. Peru: Yekaterinburg, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group D
Argentina vs. Croatia: Nizhny Novgorod, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE