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 week's review, we look ahead to the two Olympic finals and pay tribute to the fast starts made by Gabriel Agbonlahor and Bundesliga new boys Hoffenheim.
minutes without conceding was the incredible run that Nadine Angerer had built up over an unblemished FIFA Women's World Cup China 2007 campaign and Germany's run to the semi-finals of the Women's Olympic Tournament 2008. Any illusion of invincibility quickly crumbled, however, once Brazil's Formiga had slammed home an unstoppable equaliser in a thrilling last-four contest that concluded with Angerer being beaten on three more occasions. Now Germany's conquerors go on to a gold-medal match against a USA team that have won 22 of the sides' 26 meetings to date, including three friendly victories over the past ten weeks alone. The Canarinhas have also lost out to the US in all three previous Olympic showdowns, including the 2004 final, but they will nevertheless be buoyed by the memory of their most recent competitive meeting: a Marta-inspired 4-0 victory at China 2007.
years ago, Hoffenheim were an eighth-tier amateur team playing their football in utter obscurity. Today, they sit joint-top of the Bundesliga, their fairytale first season in the top flight having begun with an emphatic 3-0 win at Energie Cottbus. In kicking off with a victory, they became the first club since 1997 to take maximum points from their first-ever Bundesliga match, and only the fifth to manage this feat over the past three decades. Responsible for Hoffenheim's meteoric rise has been Dietmar Hopp, their wealthy backer, who has steadily and carefully masterminded the development of a club whose youth team he played for during the 1950s. And with Grenoble, Hull City and Hamilton Academical also winning in the French, English and Scottish top flights respectively, it was certainly a good weekend for Europe's newly-promoted clubs.
years ago, in arguably the greatest match in the history of the Men's Olympic Football Tournament, Nigeria staged a thrilling comeback in the final of the Atlanta Games to snatch gold from Argentina. With memories of that 3-2 win and Emmanuel Amunike's last-gasp winner still vivid, these same sides are now preparing to do battle once again after similarly resounding semi-final victories over Belgium and Brazil. It is only the second time in the tournament's history that there has been a rematch of a previous men's final, with Great Britain and Denmark having contested the sole previous example in 1912. Nigeria may also take heart from the fact that the outcome of the European duo's second meeting was a near-replica of their first, with Britain beating the Danes by an identical two-goal margin.
minutes was all it took Gabriel Agbonlahor to post the first opening-day hat-trick in the English Premier League since 1997, when Dion Dublin's treble sealed a shock 3-2 win over Chelsea for Coventry City. Impressive as the Aston Villa forward's feat was, however, his hat-trick in the Birmingham club's 4-2 win over Manchester City did not go down as the fastest in Premier League history. Rather, that honour belongs to Robbie Fowler, who in his prolific pomp with Liverpool needed just 4.33 minutes to lead a one-man demolition of Arsenal on 28 August 1994. Nevertheless, the highly-rated Agbonlahor is no stranger to speed; as a youngster, he was a talented sprinter and seriously contemplated a career in athletics before opting for football.
years, one month and 26 days on from his last Netherlands appearance, Mark van Bommel will finally returned to the fold tonight in a friendly with Russia. The Bayern Munich captain's participation in Moscow ends an international exile that stretched back to the Oranje's 1-0 defeat by Portugal at the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™, a match in which he received the first of 16 yellow cards. The 41-times-capped midfielder, who refused his only post-Germany 2006 call-up by Marco van Basten due to personal differences with the former AC Milan striker, was always considered likely to return to the fold under Bert van Marwijk. The new Dutch coach is, after all, his father-in-law.