Several players have leapt from the bench to great effect at South Africa 2010, turning games and scoring vital goals. FIFA.com takes a look at the substitutes who have been making an impact so far, some of them within a matter of minutes of pulling off their tracksuits.
Few players made a more dramatic entrance than Chile’s Rodrigo Millar. Only a minute after coming on at half-time in the final Group H game against Spain, and with his side trailing 2-0, the Colo-Colo midfielder shot home to halve the deficit.
Chelsea midfielder Florent Malouda performed a similar service for France against South Africa, making an entrance at the start of the second half of their group match and pulling his side into contention with a side-footed finish as the game entered the final quarter. Unfortunately for Millar and Malouda, neither goal sparked the comebacks they were hoping for.
The same cannot be said for Chile's Mark Gonzalez, who was introduced at half-time against Switzerland. Rising unmarked at the far post with 15 minutes remaining, the CSKA winger headed home to secure his side a win that ultimately took them into the Round of 16. “What could be nicer than winning and scoring the decisive goal?” said a beaming Gonzalez afterwards.
When they work out, mid-game personnel switches are often hailed as coaching masterstrokes, the introduction of fresh legs for tiring ones defined as the catalyst for many a victory. Though his team were already one goal to the good, Diego Maradona earned plaudits for his decision to push veteran forward Martin Palermo into the fray against Greece with just ten minutes remaining. The Boca Juniors player repaid his coach's faith by scoring La Albiceleste’s second as the clock ticked down.
“There’s a funny story behind Martin’s substitution,” Maradona later explained. “I was talking it over with my assistants and they told me to put Gonzalo Higuain on. So I said, ‘Is that so? Get Martin for me.’ And it worked. Before I sent him on I told him, ‘Get out there and finish the match off’. And that was all there was to it.”
The 37-year-old sub is not about to forget his time on the world's greatest stage. “I’m delighted,” Palermo said afterwards. “This goal is the most beautiful moment of my career. It’s priceless. I never thought I’d be able to score because I only came on ten minutes from time and it was a very tight match. Lady luck smiled on me again, though, and I can’t thank Diego Maradona enough. I will always be eternally grateful to him for giving me this opportunity.”
The Australia-Serbia match in Group D threw up not one but two goalscoring substitutes. After making their entrances within a minute of each other, the Socceroos’ Brett Holman and the Serbians’ Marko Pantelic both got on to the score-sheet, Holman doubling his side’s lead within seven minutes, and the Ajax forward pulling one back as the clock ran down.
A 74th-minute entrant against Denmark, Japan forward Shinji Okazaki applied the coup de grâce by scoring his side’s third goal in the closing stages, while Bert van Marwijk’s second-half changes against Cameroon also paid handsome dividends. Sending on Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Arjen Robben, the Dutch coach had the satisfaction of seeing the two combine for the Oranje’s winner, the AC Milan man tucking the ball home after a Robben shot had come back off the woodwork.
For pure drama no substitutes have been able to match the contribution of Slovakia’s Kamil Kopunek, who was on the pitch for a mere two minutes before scoring what turned out to be the goal that ended Italy’s defence of their world title. Despite a superb stoppage-time chip from fellow replacement Fabio Quagliarella, Kopunek’s late strike proved crucial in the eastern Europeans’ shock 3-2 win.
Similarly, Mexico’s all-important 2-0 defeat of France owed everything to some inspired reshuffling on the part of Tricolor coach Javier Aguirre. El Vasco could have been forgiven for giving himself a pat on the back after watching Javier Hernandez and Cuauhtemoc Blanco spring off the bench to score the goals that sank Les Bleus.
Among the other quick-fire subs to make an instant mark at South Africa 2010 are Germany’s Cacau, who scored his side’s fourth against Australia only seconds after coming on, while Portugal’s Liedson and Côte d’Ivoire’s Salomon Kalou were both quick to open their tournament accounts against Group G minnows Korea DPR.