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The Art of Subsitution

"Throwing on a substitute in a soccer game can be like throwing dice: You win some, you lose some," writes the New York Times' Rob Hughes, but "the gambles Wednesday in World Cup qualifiers and friendly games alike provided some career-changing benefits" as well as dramatic victories, with Mexican coach Javier Aguirre being "the biggest winner, in front of by far the biggest audience."

Aguirre's call for journeyman Miguel Sabah came in the 80th minute and carried clear instructions: "get the ball, keep control, get a goal," remembers Sabah, who now has five goals in Mexico's last 10 matches. Four minutes later, it came, and "a moment of control, then a short, sharp strike, made Sabah the hero of the night," retells Hughes.

But Aguirre wasn't the only perceived mastermind of the night, with Diego Maradona successfully inserting a quick catalyst not once but twice to pull out a 3-2 friendly win over Russia, putting on Lisandro Lopez at halftime, where "in just 32 seconds the speedy Lopez had the ball in the net" and later taking a chance on uncapped Jesus Datolo, who "proved an instant success, requiring not much more than half a minute to score from 18 meters."

 

 

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