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, our focus turns exclusively to the FIFA World Cup™ as teams across the globe attempt to edge forward on the road to South Africa.
consecutive minutes without conceding had taken Korea DPR goalkeeper Ri Myong-Guk to within just five of claiming a seventh straight clean sheet in Asia's 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. Even when UAE's Basheer Saeed finally added a blemish to Guk's erstwhile spotless record, it required a massive deflection to deceive the impressive North Korean No1. Not that Guk will be too despondent. After all, his defiant showing at the Bin Zayed Stadium was crucial in Korea DPR claiming a shock 2-1 victory - their first win against UAE in seven attempts - with the three points a perfect early birthday present for the promising young keeper, who yesterday turned 22. Guk will need to be at his best once again, however, when the North Koreans go up against their southern neighbours in Shanghai later today.
consecutive competitive internationals is the remarkable milestone that Kevin Kilbane will reach when he lines up for Republic of Ireland in Montenegro this evening. Since drawing 1-1 with Turkey in a UEFA EURO 2000 play-off in November 1999, the Irish have played 45 FIFA World Cup and EURO qualifiers, plus four games at Korea/Japan 2002, and every single one of those has begun with Kilbane in the starting line-up. The sequence represents a compelling testament to the Wigan Athletic full-back's enduring commitment and, at 31, he will certainly hope to continue the run all the way to South Africa. Making his achievement all the more impressive is the fact that the former Everton and Sunderland player starred in Saturday's 2-1 victory in Georgia with a fractured cheekbone, and he will again wear a protective mask this evening as he wins his 90th cap.
years ago, Fabio Capello made his 20th Italy appearance in a 1-0 loss to Yugoslavia in Zagreb's Maksimir Stadium. Tonight, the England coach returns to the scene of that defeat with a Three Lions team aiming to slay some ghosts of their own, this against a Croatia side who beat them twice en route to UEFA EURO 2008. Yet claiming revenge will be easier said than done against hosts whose unbeaten home record in EURO and FIFA World Cup qualifiers now stretches back 30 matches. Capello will also know that he is facing up to a formidable foe in Slaven Bilic, who has never been beaten by England either as a player or as a coach.
years after they last won a FIFA World Cup qualifier on the road - beating Peru 2-0 on 4 September 2001 - Uruguay made a timely return to away form with a 1-0 win in Colombia. In doing so, they not only ended their hosts' unbeaten home record in South Africa 2010 preliminaries, but succeeded in leapfrogging Los Cafeteros into fourth in the South American standings. Colombia have now failed to score in five of their seven qualifiers to date and only stay ahead of Chile due to a miserly defensive record that has seen them concede fewer goals than any of their fellow continental hopefuls. As for the Celeste, they welcome Ecuador this evening boosted by recent form and their record of six wins and a draw (0-0 in 1993) from seven matches against La Tricolor in Montevideo.
more goal is all that Spain require to reach the 200 mark in FIFA World Cup preliminaries after David Villa scored No199 in Saturday's 1-0 win at home to Bosnia. The Valencia striker might, in fact, have bagged the landmark strike himself but for a missed first-half penalty, although he will hope for better luck this evening when the European champions entertain Armenia. It is now 74-and-a-half years since Eduardo Gonzalez fired La Furia Roja's first-ever qualifying goal in a 9-0 win over Portugal, and 14 years since Michel completed Spain's first century in a 3-0 victory over Albania. Armenia will certainly be acutely aware of the imposing challenge posed by a Spanish side undefeated in 36 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.