When FIFA allowed teams to make a fourth substitution in extra time at the World Cup, it was widely assumed they would bring on their penalty specialists.
That’s not always happening, however.
Of the six players who have come on as fourth substitutes in World Cup games in Russia, only two have taken a penalty in a shootout and only one has scored.
That distinction goes to Marcus Rashford, who came on in the 113th minute of England’s game against Colombia. He couldn’t reach a cross from Jamie Vardy in the final minutes, but he stepped up later and sent the ball to goalkeeper David Ospina’s right as England won its first World Cup shootout.
Less successfully, Croatia brought on Milan Badelj in the 108th minute against Denmark. The Fiorentina midfielder went first in the penalty shootout, but his low shot was stopped by Kasper Schmeichel’s legs. Croatia still advanced to the quarterfinals, however, getting penalties from starters Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, as well as Andrej Kramaric, who came on in extra time as the third substitute.
Every team which has had the chance to use a fourth sub has done so. Instead of penalty takers, the fourth substitute rule has largely been used in the way FIFA envisioned, as a way to win the game in extra time — or at least avoid losing.
The new rule will also be used next season in the Champions League.
Alexander Yerokhin became the first player in World Cup history to come on as a fourth sub in extra time against Spain. Replacing Daler Kuzyaev in central midfield, Yerokhin reinforced a host team trying to cling on for a penalty shootout, which it won.
Yerokhin’s contribution was meager — no tackles and only two passes in 25 minutes — but he was still delighted with being part of Russia’s biggest World Cup win since Soviet times.
“Of course it’s really nice that Stanislav Salamovich (Cherchesov, the national team’s coach) chose me to come on at such a key moment,” Yerokhin told Russian media. “I tried to commit myself 100 percent and do everything not to let down the coaching staff.”
The fourth substitute who came closest to scoring before a shootout was Spain forward Rodrigo. He played only 18 minutes against Russia but recorded three shots, tied for the most in the team. He caused trouble by running at the Russian defense and forced a good save from goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev. But he didn’t take a penalty in the shootout.