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, we highlight the achievements of Luis Aragones, Luciano Emilio and Philipp Lahm, while looking forward to an intriguing challenge for Sir Alex Ferguson against yet another former protégé.
passes, more than any other player at UEFA EURO 2008, goes some way towards explaining why Philipp Lahm is such an influential and impressive figure in the Germany side chasing continental glory. The swashbuckling full-back was the only German player to play all 690 minutes at the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ and, as Joachim Low's side chase their first EURO crown since 1996, he has once again been consistency and reliability personified on both flanks. This evening, Lahm could well find himself coming into direct opposition against a club colleague when Germany face Turkey in the first of the EURO 2008 semi-finals. Hamit Altintop would be well advised not to expect any special favours from his Bayern team-mate, however - Lahm's competitive streak and sporting versatility ensured that he even emerged triumphant in the Germany squad's internal table-tennis tournament.
years and 334 days will make Luis Aragones the oldest head coach ever to oversee a UEFA European Championship semi-final when he leads his side into battle against Russia tomorrow evening. The veteran Spain coach will certainly hope that wisdom and experience proves as valuable to La Furia Roja as it did to the team led by the man whose record he is eclipsing: Otto Rehhagel. The German coach was 38 days short of his 66th birthday when he masterminded Greece's 1-0 win in the 2004 final over a Czech Republic side managed by the EURO's third-oldest coach, Karel Bruckner, then 64. Aragones has been widely lauded for his side's displays thus far and it said much for the historical significance of Spain's quarter-final win on that supposedly 'cursed' date that not even El Sabio de Hortaleza (the Wise Man of Hortaleza), whose playing career began 51 years ago, was around to see Spain's last win over Italy at a major championships - in the 1920 Olympics.
goals in 5 games has kept DC United's Luciano Emilio firmly in the hunt to retain the MLS Golden Boot. The 29-year-old Brazilian took the US top flight by storm in 2007, his debut season, scoring a league-record 20 goals and scooping a remarkable quadruple of personal honours that also included the MLS Most Valuable Player and Newcomer of the Year awards, plus a spot on the league's Best XI. This season has proved more challenging, but Emilio's recent scoring streak, which has included a first-ever MLS hat-trick against New York Red Bulls on 14 June, has taken him to within three goals of the league's leading scorer, Landon Donovan. For a player who arrived in Washington with a reputation as something of a journeyman from spells in Germany, Honduras, his Brazilian homeland and Mexico's second tier, Emilio has certainly made a hugely impressive impact.
of Sir Alex Ferguson's former protégés will square up to their mentor in the English Premier League this coming season after Paul Ince was appointed to succeed Mark Hughes at Blackburn Rovers. Hughes himself will take on Fergie from within his own realm having agreed a switch to Manchester City, while two of the United manager's former captains, Roy Keane and Steve Bruce, remain in charge of Sunderland and Wigan Athletic respectively. Had Alex McLeish's Birmingham City not succumbed to relegation on the final day of last season, this tally could have been even higher, while Celtic's Gordon Strachan may once again lock horns in the UEFA Champions League with the man who managed him in Aberdeen and Manchester. Laurent Blanc could do so for the first time with Bordeaux in the same tournament, while even Fergie's son, Darren - another former United player, now player-manager at third tier Peterborough - could come up against his father in one of the domestic cup competitions. Yet the showdown with Ince will be particularly intriguing. Ferguson, after all, famously described the self-styled 'Guv'nor' as "self-centred and arrogant" in his autobiography, although Ince insisted yesterday that relations have since mellowed. "It was only last year that he was in my office having a glass of red wine," said the new Blackburn boss. "He was a fantastic man to work for, his standards are unbelievable, and it's no coincidence that guys from his teams are doing so well in management."
wins from six matches plus just eight goals scored adds up to the worst start Brazil have made to a FIFA World Cup preliminary campaign since CONMEBOL introduced the round robin format in 1998. Dunga's side were jeered from the field following a drab 0-0 home draw with Argentina that continued a miserable run of form, one that had recently seen the Seleção lose to Venezuela for the first time in their history and go down to a 2-0 defeat in Paraguay. Peru, however, make Brazil's problems seem trivial, with their record of played six, won none comfortably the worst they have ever shown at this stage of a preliminary campaign. Uruguay were the most recent side to profit from the Peruvians' fragility, firing six unanswered goals to rack up their biggest-ever win in a FIFA World Cup qualifier.