In many ways, football is a simple game: the team that scores the most goals wins. Yet 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, each week, FIFA.com takes a look at the numbers behind the results.
The FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers monopolise our attention this week, with the winning habits of Brazil and Netherlands featuring alongside clean sheets aplenty in Spain and Côte d'Ivoire and a landmark goal spree in the Czech Republic.
goals in 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa qualifying was the milestone reached when Milan Baros fired home the second of his four goals in the Czechs' 7-0 win over San Marino. The Galatasaray striker's 20-minute treble at the end of the first half was also the fastest hat-trick in the European Zone thus far, with the Czech star just edging Poland's Ebi Smolarek, who took 21 minutes score three against the same opponents. However, Baros - who became just the second Czech player to score four times in one match, emulating Jan Koller's feat against Macedonia in 2005 - was unable to set a new global benchmark. In truth, he has little hope of matching Vanuata's Seule Soromon, who took just five minutes to score a hat-trick against American Samoa in an August 2007 FIFA World Cup qualifier. Nor indeed could he have been expected to catch Fiji's Osea Vakatalesau, still the preliminaries' top scorer on the back of a six-goal haul against Tuvalu the same month.
clean sheets for Spain was a record that Andoni Zubizarreta probably never expected to see surpassed. However, the Roja legend would have reckoned without the remarkable Iker Casillas, who drew level with Zubizarreta's benchmark by keeping Estonia out in a 3-0 win for the European champions. The Spain captain, who is still just 28, also achieved the feat in just 98 appearances compared to the 126 made by his iconic predecessor during a 13-year international career.
successive wins and 19 matches unbeaten have established Brazil as the form team in world football. These sensational sequences have also ensured that A Seleção, the only team to have been represented at all 18 FIFA World Cups to date, will make it 19 out of 19 in South Africa next year. With their status as hosts guaranteeing a 20th in 2014, these are exciting times for a nation that has witnessed Dunga recover from an indifferent start to lead their team to glory at the FIFA Confederations Cup and onwards to success against their fiercest continental rivals. The once-maligned coach is famous for his pragmatism, something reflected in his side's miserly tally of nine goals conceded in 16 qualifiers. However, it should be noted that Brazil are also the South American Zone's top scorers by some distance, with the seven goals racked up against Argentina and Chile taking their tally to 32.
wins from as many South Africa 2010 qualifiers ensured that the Netherlands became just the second European team in history to qualify for a FIFA World Cup without dropping a point. Not since West Germany emerged with an unblemished record from their eight-game 1982 preliminary campaign had this feat been managed, and the Oranje's record of 17 goals for and just 2 against spoke volumes for their superiority in Group 9. Yet although the best part of three decades separates the first and second European teams with 100 per cent FIFA World Cup qualifying records, it could be that the third and the fourth emerge within a few weeks. After all, Spain and England have won all eight of their preliminary fmatches thus far and will be aiming to make it ten from ten when they negotiate their final fixtures next month.
years and seven days have now passed since Côte d'Ivoire last conceded a competitive goal on home soil. Les Elephants have turned Abidjan into a fortress during their South Africa 2010 preliminary campaign, winning their five home qualifiers by an aggregate score of 18-0. Indeed, you need to look back to 4 September 2005, when Cameroon won a thrilling 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifier by the odd goal in five, for the last time a visiting team managed to score in a competitive match on Ivorian soil.