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. This, the latest of our round-ups, is dominated by the ongoing FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers and UEFA EURO 2008, with hat-trick heroes David Villa and Marcinho claiming starring roles.
minutes have now passed since Korea DPR last conceded a goal in competitive action. The North Koreans are the only side in Asia still with an unblemished defensive record after four rounds of matches in the third phase of South Africa 2010 qualifying, and one needs to look back to 28 October 2007 for the last time their goal was breached - and that in a 5-1 win over Mongolia. This miserly record continued on Saturday with a 1-0 win over Turkmenistan in Pyongyang that kept Korea DPR level with Korea Republic at the top of Group 3. Choe Kum-Chul scored the only goal as a crowd of 25,000 cheered their heroes on to a result that maintains hope of a return to the world stage the North Koreans graced so memorably in 1966.
appearances at the UEFA European Championship is the latest record set to have been claimed by the seemingly ageless Lilian Thuram. Even before starting Monday's match with Romania, the 36-year-old France centre-half shared the record for most appearances at the continental finals with former team-mate Zinedine Zidane, Portugal's Luis Figo and Karel Poborsky of the Czech Republic. Now though, he is out on his own at the top after strolling through Les Bleus' soporific 0-0 draw with the Romanians. Thuram's place at the summit could yet come under threat during EURO 2008, however, should the Netherlands progress further than France, with Edwin van der Sar having made his 14th appearance in the Oranje's scintillating 3-0 win over Italy. The France stalwart and Dutch captain are two of just five players - Lothar Matthaus, Peter Schmeichel and Alessandro Del Piero being the others - to have played in four EURO finals.
years after first beginning work with the Swedish national team, Lars Lagerback made history last night by becoming the first coach in history to lead his team at three separate European Championships. The 49-year-old's first finals experience was disappointing, with the Swedes taking just one point from a possible nine at EURO 2000, but they fared better in 2004, topping a section that also included Italy, Denmark and Bulgaria. Only a cruel defeat on penalties to the Netherlands prevented them progressing further on that occasion, and their 2-0 win over holders Greece last night hinted they could yet go one better. Yesterday also witnessed another coaching milestone at the EURO, with Guus Hiddink becoming the first coach to lead two different nations at the continental showpiece - not that the Russia coach had a great deal to celebrate after his side lost 4-1 to Spain.
players had scored hat-tricks at European Championships prior to David Villa becoming the seventh in Spain's 4-1 win over Hiddink's Russia. Two of those trebles came from the same player, at the same tournament, with Michel Platini's free-scoring displays against Belgium and Yugoslavia typical of the brilliance that inspired France to glory at EURO 84. The first-ever scorer of a hat-trick at the European showpiece was, predictably, the predatory Gerd Muller at the 1976 edition, and it was another German, Klaus Allofs, who became the second four years later. Marco van Basten put England to the sword with a tremendous treble in 1988, and 12 years then passed before Portugal's Sergio Conceicao put three past Germany at EURO 2000 and Patrick Kluivert scored the competition's most recent hat-trick - prior to Villa's - against Yugoslavia at the same edition.
goals in as many games has propelled Flamengo's Marcinho to the top of the Brasileiro scoring charts, and his club to the summit of the domestic standings. The 23-year-old has rarely grabbed the headlines during an erstwhile unremarkable career with Cruzeiro and Atletico Mineiro, but the switch to Flamengo - where he has been deployed in a more advanced role - has seen the Irapua-born forward become an unlikely star attraction. The high point thus far came on Saturday, when Marcinho scored the week's fastest hat-trick - inside 42 first-half minutes - to fire Flamengo to a 5-0 win over Figueirense that moved them ahead of Cruzeiro on goal difference at the top of the table. Unsurprisingly, the hero of the hour later described this purple patch as "the best phase of my career", and the challenge for Marcinho is now to become the first Flamengo player to top the Brasileiro scoring charts since Zico shared the award with Sao Paulo's Serginho in 1982.