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Five-sub rule means ‘higher quality football’ in Qatar, says FIFA expert

Former AC Milan and Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni said on Wednesday the implementation of the five-substitute rule has “changed the game”, leading to higher quality matches at the World Cup.

Speaking in Doha as part of FIFA’s technical study group which analyses tactics and trends at the World Cup, Zaccheroni said the change was “a brilliant way to avoid tiredness”.

“(Now) we manage to have higher quality up until the end. Many goals were seen at the end of games, now it is more difficult,” he said.

“Now we see games which are good up until the last minute.”

The International Football Association Board passed a temporary exemption in May 2020 to allow domestic leagues to expand the maximum amount of substitutions from three to five, to help player welfare during the Covid pandemic.

The rules were made permanent in July 2022 and implemented for the first time at a World Cup in Qatar.

Zaccheroni — who won the Scudetto in his first season in charge of Milan and lifted the Asian Cup with Japan in 2011 — said the change was an advantage for sides with stronger squad depth.

“If you have a strong bench, a nice bench, it is better,” he told AFP.

“If you have players with the same quality on the bench (as those on the field), you can win.”

Zaccheroni pointed to the match between the Netherlands and Senegal, where second-half substitutes Davy Klaassen and Memphis Depay combined for a match-sealing goal in injury time.

“In the second half, the Netherlands put two midfielders on the pitch. Players with a lot of quality, who combined for the final goal.

“They changed the game.”

Zaccheroni, who coached for almost to four decades at the top level, said the change was good for fans.

“As fans, we love nice football too. At this World Cup, we see nice football over 90 minutes.”

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