When the FIFA substitution rules go wrong:

The Confederations Cup is in full swing in Brazil. Yesterday, Spain, the reigning World Champions and currently ranked #1 in the world, played Tahiti who is currently ranked 138 in the world right ahead of powerhouse Afghanistan.

Spain were only up 1-0 in the first 30 minutes and ended up winning 10-0. While they did not field their A-Team, they did pour it on Tahiti scoring 9 goals in the last hour of play.

Now, Spain did use all of their allotted 3 substitutes. All three came into the game in the second half and all before the 76th minute of play. And that is all FIFA would allow.

Now, keep in mind that the substitution rule is relatively new in the game of soccer (association football). It was not that long ago that substitutes were not allowed. A view of Charlie George exhausted on his back on the pitch of Wembley in the 1971 FA Cup Final plays to the fact of just how exhausting the game was without an influx of fresh bodies. However, there is no rule against pulling your foot off of the gas.

Now, I have heard it said by coaches that even with your non-starters playing you still ask that they play hard. And I get that. I can recall Steve Spurrier, then coach of Florida, discussing how against certain competition, no matter how low you go on the depth chart, you cannot help but run up the score. And that is true. However, at what point is that too much?

In the game of soccer, truly the beautiful game, the players are laying together a masterpiece on the pitch and when the game is played at it’s highest level, it truly is a thing to behold. However, at 10-0 in a major international competition, even the perfect goal can be ugly.

Current FIFA rules allow for 7 players to sit on the bench in addition to the 11 that start the game. 3 may come in as a substitute. Substitutes are generally reserved for field players (non-keepers). Perhaps, much like Major League Soccer used to have, we add one substitute to be used for a goalie only?

Would this have stopped the embarrassment in Brazil yesterday? Certainly not. However, it does give the manager a little more leniency to help take the foot off the gas.

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