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 week, as the focus turns to the forthcoming 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifiers, derby and deadline-day drama in the UK jostle for position with misery on the road for Spain's big two.
minutes without a goal was the record with which Kenny Miller entered Sunday's Old Firm derby, his first since returning to Rangers. The under-pressure Scotland striker had not found the net since scoring for Derby County in a 3-1 defeat at Blackburn Rovers on 3 May, and arrived at Celtic Park burdened with additional baggage. Miller had, after all, made history during the summer by becoming only the second player to cross the Glasgow divide twice, with the first, Tom Dunbar, having done so over 110 years ago. As it transpired, Miller - who had also broken his Celtic duck in an Old Firm derby - ignored the jeers to strike twice as Rangers won a typically tempestuous battle 4-2, seizing an early psychological advantage in the race for the Scottish title.
million pounds ($225 million) was the staggering combined outlay of England's Premier League clubs on transfer deadline day, underlining the awesome and unmatched spending power of football's richest league. Stealing headlines and raising eyebrows were Manchester City, whose £32.5 million capture of Robinho from under Chelsea's nose took everyone by surprise. Mark Hughes' side also made a cheeky attempt to snatch long-term Manchester United target Dimitar Berbatov, but Sir Alex Ferguson prevailed with a £30.75 million bid that ensured the Bulgarian will shortly take his place alongside Messrs. Ronaldo, Rooney and Tevez. Among the other major deadline-day deals in England were Marouane Fellaini's £15 million move from Standard Liege to Everton, Spurs' £22.5 million capture of UEFA EURO 2008 stars Roman Pavlyuchenko and Vedran Corluka, and Liverpool's bolstering of their Spanish contingent with £8 million Albert Riera.
caps is the milestone that will be reached by Henrik Larsson in Tirana on Saturday, and it was confirmed yesterday that this landmark appearance will also be the 36-year-old's first as Sweden's new captain. Fourteen years on from starring in his first FIFA World Cup at USA 1994, the Helsingborg striker has been entrusted with the role of leading Lars Lagerback's team to South Africa - a road that starts with that tricky match in Albania. Larsson, who turns 37 later this month, came out of international retirement to play at EURO 2008 and has not ruled out competing in a fourth FIFA World Cup finals in two years' time. Describing the captaincy as "a big honour", he said: "As long as I can play at this level and they want me, I will stay.''
goals in 89 international appearances has established Michael Owen among England's greatest-ever strikers, with the 28-year-old having already scored more competitive goals (26) than any of his predecessors. This remarkable pedigree has not, however, been sufficient to convince Fabio Capello that Owen merits a place in his squad for the forthcoming FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Andorra and Croatia. Adding to the shock at the Newcastle United player's omission is the fact that Capello has included only three orthodox strikers - Wayne Rooney, Jermain Defoe and Emile Heskey - with his fourth forward, Theo Walcott, having been converted to a winger at Arsenal.
years and as many league matches have now passed since Real Madrid last won away to Deportivo La Coruna, after the Spanish champions extended this miserable sequence with a 2-1 defeat on Sunday. Los Merengues need to look back to a 3-0 win on 2 November 1991 for their last victory at the Riazor, and Ruud van Nistelrooy's goal on Sunday was only the second they have managed in their last eight visits. This now stands as the second-worst winless streak in Real's history, and is only surpassed by the 20-match unbeaten run that Barcelona strung together against them at the Camp Nou between 1984 and 2002. Yet if Bernd Schuster's side can draw any consolation, it is from the away form of these same arch-rivals. After all, going down at Numancia at the weekend has left Barcelona with a record of two wins, two draws and eight defeats from their last 12 matches on the road.