All roads lead to South Africa
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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.

Unsurprisingly, this week's review is monopolised by the FIFA World Cup™, with preliminary tales from Quito and Bogota featuring alongside the international achievements of Wesley Sonck, David Beckham and Giampolo Pazzini.

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minutes without a goal in FIFA World Cup qualifying came to a long-awaited end for Colombia on Saturday when Macnelly Torres struck the opening blow in a 2-0 win over Bolivia. Over nine months had passed since Hugo Rodallega has scored Los Cafeteros' last goal in a 1-1 draw with Peru, so there was considerable relief when Torres popped up to end their five-game scoring drought. The victory, sealed by Wason Renteria two minutes from time, lifted Colombia to sixth in the 10-team South American section, reviving the hopes of a nation aiming to qualify for their first FIFA World Cup since 1998.

26

years have now passed since Brazil last won in Quito after Christian Noboa's last-minute goal denied them victory on Sunday. With their last victory in the Ecuadorian capital having come in the 1983 Copa America, the Seleção are still searching for their first FIFA World Cup qualifying win away to La Tri. The Brazilians had, in fact, failed to score on all three previous preliminary visits to Quito and, although Julio Baptista brought that sequence to an end, they were heavily indebted to goalkeeper Julio Cesar. The Inter Milan No1 was on the verge of a sixth successive clean sheet when Noboa struck, although Brazil still boast the best defensive record in the South American Zone, having conceded just five goals in their entire 11-match campaign.

15

minutes was all Italy debutant Giampaolo Pazzini required to grab his first senior goal for the Azzurri on Saturday. The Sampdoria star's instant impact against Montenegro was not, however, the first time he has proved quick off the blocks while on international duty. England fans may remember that, two years ago, Pazzini took just 28 seconds to score the first goal at the new Wembley before going on to grab a hat-trick for Italy's U-21s. Now 24, the striker will hope to have played himself into contention for the match against Republic of Ireland this evening in Bari, a city in which Italy have won all seven of their previous matches. The hosts will, however, be wary of a side led by the hugely experienced former Azzurri coach Giovanni Trapattoni, who will become the first Italian since Alfredo Foni with Switzerland in 1967 to go up against his native country in FIFA World Cup qualifying.

6

goals in his last 5 FIFA World Cup qualifiers have seen Belgium's Wesley Sonck take up the baton from David Villa as the preliminary competition's form striker. With Villa's own five-match scoring sequence coming to an end against Turkey on Saturday, Sonck is now left to target two of the most prolific strikers in preliminary history. Gerd Muller, who scored in six successive qualifiers between 1968 and 1969, can be equalled with another goal against Bosnia-Herzegovina this evening. However, Sonck, who has already equalled Marc Wilmots' national record, will need to score in his next five consecutive qualifiers if he is to surpass Pauleta, who scored in all nine of Portugal's preliminary fixtures between June 2001 and March 2005.

1

more victory against Ukraine this evening is all that England require to set a new record. Fabio Capello's side's run of six straight home wins in FIFA World Cup qualifying is equal to a sequence established in the Three Lions' first six preliminary matches between 1949 and 1973. Ironically, the last time England failed to win a FIFA World Cup qualifier on home soil was the much-celebrated 2-2 draw with Greece on 6 October 2001, remembered for the unforgettable David Beckham free-kick that sealed a place at Korea/Japan 2002. Beckham, of course, celebrated a milestone of his own this week, becoming his country's most-capped outfield player by surpassing Bobby Moore's previous record of 108 and moving to within 16 appearances of Peter Shilton's 125-cap haul.