In many ways, football is a simple game: the team that scores
the most goals, wins. Yet in every week, in every league and in
every single match, there are intriguing statistical sub-plots that
help make the beautiful game the fascinating spectacle that it is.
That's why, every week, we at FIFA.com take a look at the numbers behind the results, highlighting football's biggest winners and losers from the week just past. In this, the latest of our round-ups, Ryan Giggs and Frank Rijkaard are given starring roles, while we look back to some thrilling action in La Plata, Tbilisi and Sao Paulo.
Manchester United appearances was the mammoth tally accrued by Bobby Charlton between 1954 and 1973. The Old Trafford and England legend must surely have felt his record was safe, too, in this modern era of squad rotation and vastly increased player movement - but he would have reckoned without the longevity and consistency of a certain Ryan Giggs. On Sunday, the 34-year-old Welshman not only equalled Charlton's record; he further strengthened his status as the most successful individual player in the history of the English top flight by collecting a tenth league winners' medal. And best of all? Giggs celebrated these milestones by coming off the bench to score the decisive goal and ease United nerves as Sir Alex Ferguson's side won 2-0 at Wigan Athletic to clinch their 17th league championship on a dramatic final day.
is the winning percentage that Frank Rijkaard established over five seasons and 188 La Liga matches in charge of Barcelona. It's a portion that compares favourably to two of his Dutch predecessors at the Camp Nou - Rinus Michels and Luis van Gaal - but leaves him just short of the 59.80 winning rate that Johan Cruyff racked up between 1988 and 1996. Rijkaard's own percentage might well have threatened that of his legendary countryman had it not been for a miserable recent run of results that has seen the Catalan giants win just one of their last eight top flight fixtures. Yet is a measure of the respect he has earned from the Camp Nou faithful during his tenure, however, that even as his team fell to a 3-2 defeat to Real Majorca on Sunday, the Dutchman was cheered every time he emerged from the dugout. While Josep Guardiola is now Barcelona's future, Rijkaard will be remembered for the dazzling play that brought the Blaugrana two league titles and a European crown.
long years had passed since Argentina's Estudiantes were last able to claim a home win over Boca Juniors, until history was rewritten on Sunday. Ironically, when the La Plata club last enjoyed the upper hand on their own patch back in 1995, their victorious team included a young Juan Sebastian Veron, who played his part in a 2-1 victory. On Sunday, with Veron now the experienced fulcrum of the side, a single-goal margin was again sufficient to secure victory for Los Pincharratas - Ezequiel Maggiolo grabbing the decisive goal - and there was an added historical resonance to the celebrations. After all, that 1995 'home' win was staged in Independiente and, until Saturday, Boca had triumphed in each of the teams' four meetings at the Estadio Unico, Estudiantes' current home. The price of this maiden defeat for the Buenos Aires club was that they slipped to sixth in a Clausura table jointly led by Estudiantes and River Plate, locked together at the summit on 30 points.
goals in 90 memorable minutes made for the most thrilling Tbilisi derby imaginable as two of the Georgian capital's clubs fought out a titanic battle on Sunday. In the end, victory went to Dinamo, but only after struggling Lokomotiv had mounted a series of defiant mini-comebacks that culminated in two late goals, making the final stages especially nervy. Dinamo, the dominant force in post-independence Georgian football, had clinched their 13th title the week before with a 1-0 win at Zestafoni that established an unassailable lead at the top of the Umaglesi Liga. Lokomotiv, meanwhile, whose last league championship came in 1945, are on course to finish fourth from bottom.
separate goalscorers, a record for the week past, were on target as Portuguesa and Figueirense fought out a similarly titanic 5-5 draw in Sao Paulo. In what proved to be a fitting introduction to the new Brasileiro season, Christian, Patricio, Marcos Aurelio, Diogo, Rodrigo Fabri, Bruno Rodrigo, Cesar, Felipe Santana (2) and Bruno Santos all found the net in an engrossing contest that also witnessed Figueirense mount the week's biggest comeback. The visitors from Santa Catarina were 5-2 down deep into the second half, and remained two goals behind with only a couple of minutes remaining. Indeed, it was in the second minute of stoppage time, just as Portuguesa were preparing to celebrate their return to the top flight after a five-year absence with a high-scoring win, that Santana struck to break the hosts' hearts and earn an especially hard-fought point.