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.
This week's review is split between football's two age-old enemies: attack and defence. Samuel Eto'o and Adrian Mutu receive well-deserved praise for their prolific goalscoring form, while on the other side of the divide there is equally justified recognition for Australia's frugal defence and the evergreen England goalkeeper David James.
Premier League appearances is the impressive tally that has made David James an English record-breaker. By playing, and keeping a clean sheet, against Manchester City on Saturday, the veteran Portsmouth keeper surpassed the previous record set by Gary Speed during the Welsh midfielder's 15-year top flight career. Ryan Giggs, who lies third in the all-time standings on 513 appearances, currently looks to be James' greatest threat, with Pompey team-mate Sol Campbell next on the list on 471. However, the 38-year-old keeper insists that he is only looking to extend the record and set a benchmark for future generations of Premier League stalwarts to aim for.
league goals is a milestone that, prior to Saturday, only two players in Barcelona's long and illustrious history had ever reached. The first to do so was Cesar Rodriquez, who racked up 195 league strikes between 1942 and 1954, and the next to join the Catalans' century club was Hungarian Ladislao Kubala, with 131 goals between 1951 and 1961. Samuel Eto'o has been at the Camp Nou less than five years, but it is a testament to the Cameroonian's exploits during that time that his 99th and 100th league goals in the blue and burgundy came in Barça's 2-2 draw at Real Betis on Saturday. Nor was this the only notable scoring landmark in Spain this weekend, with Raul - having equalled Alfredo di Stefano's Real Madrid tally a fortnight ago - finally surpassing the great man's record with his 308th and 309th goals for Los Merengues.
minutes was all Adrian Mutu needed to score the week's fastest hat-trick and inspire the unlikeliest of Fiorentina comebacks on Sunday. The Viola had looked to be destined for defeat in Genoa when Diego Milito fired the hosts 3-0 in front after 55 minutes, but a Mutu penalty four minutes later sparked an incredible finale. The Romanian struck again with ten minutes remaining and then, three minutes into injury time, claimed a dramatic, last-gasp equaliser. As well as keeping Fiorentina in fourth place, one point ahead of Genoa, the goal propelled Mutu up the scoring charts to joint-seventh alongside Pato and Kaka on 11, five behind the league's current leading marksman, Genoa's Marco Di Vaio.
years of always scoring in home FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers came to an end for Japan last Wednesday when they came up against the immovable defensive object that is Pim Verbeek's Australia. The Dutchman's Socceroos are on a run of four consecutive preliminary matches and 439 minutes without conceding, and in grinding out a 0-0 draw in Yokohama, they became the first preliminary rival to claim a clean sheet on Japanese soil since Hong Kong back in 1989. The result, in Verbeek's own words, was "a big step" towards South Africa 2010, with Australia maintaing a two-point advantage over the Japanese at the halfway point, with home advantage to look forward to in three of their remaining four qualifiers.
consecutive preliminary wins is the record sequence that has left Costa Rica firmly on course to reach South Africa 2010. After seven wins on the bounce during the last phase, a decisive double from Andy Furtado against Honduras last Wednesday maintained this exceptional run of form for a Tico side that had been stuttering prior to Rodrigo Kenton's arrival. USA, meanwhile, are on an even more impressive ten-match winning streak after triumphing 2-0 over a Mexico side on a run of four FIFA World Cup qualifiers without a win for only the third time in their history. It will be of little consolation to fans of El Tri that they still boast the region's longest preliminary winning sequence, having strung together 13 straight victories between 1934 and 1957.