In our latest statistical review, FIFA.com looks at Spain’s European stranglehold, England’s FIFA U-20 World Cup woes, a thumping win for Flora Tallinn, and drama in Brazil, both on the field and at the Preliminary Draw.
nations learned the route that they will have to negotiate if they are to reach the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil on Saturday. In total, 203 teams, a record high, will be involved in the Brazil 2014 preliminaries, with a scheduled number of 824 matches over two years and five months set to be watched by approximately 20 million supporters. The highlight of the draw was arguably the pairing of current kings Spain with 1998 winners France in European Zone Group I. It was only the fourth time two former world champions have been drawn together, the previous examples having been England and Italy (1978 and 1998), and England and Germany (2002).
goals against bottom side Ajax Lasnamae helped Estonian champions Flora Tallinn to the week’s biggest win, strengthening their grip on the Meistriliiga title. Flora are defending a crown they have won on a record eight occasions, and Saturday’s 13-1 victory has edged them closer to claiming title number nine. With 19 matches of the current season already gone, the capital club have still to taste defeat, a feat that gives them the joint-longest unbeaten run in world football along with Burundi’s Athletico Olympic. Ajax, by contrast, have failed to win any of their 22 matches this season, and Flora’s Henri Anier certainly enjoyed facing them, helping himself to four goals – including a 14-minute hat-trick – to leave the Lasnamae side’s goal difference at -81.
FIFA U-20 World Cup matches without a win have left England on the brink of an unwanted tournament record. The Three Lions’ last win at the youth showpiece came 14 years ago at Malaysia 1997, and failing to win tomorrow’s match against Mexico – ironically, the current holders of the record thanks to a 13-match streak between 1977 and 1983 – will see the milestone reached. And you don’t need to look far for the reason behind England’s shocking run of form. After all, their last 11 matches at the FIFA U-20 World Cup – encompassing four separate editions – have yielded just a single goal. Indeed, 849 consecutive goalless minutes had passed before Alex Tchuimeni-Nimely’s equaliser in a 1-1 draw with Uzbekistan in 2009, and England now approach their final group match at Colombia 2011 still waiting to open their account.
goals in his last six Brasileiro appearances is the run that has helped establish Neymar among the most sought-after strikers in world football. Yet although the 19-year-old has been on target three times in the past week, his goals have not been enough to prevent Santos losing twice, conceding eight goals in the process, against Flamengo and Atletico PR. The former match was a classic, with Neymar and Ronaldinho excelling as their sides served up nine goals in the highest-scoring Brasileiro game in over three years. And it was the veteran Flamengo star who had the last laugh, scoring a hat-trick – his first in over 18 months – as O Mengão came from 3-0 down to extend an unbeaten run that now stretches back 14 matches.
major titles, including all three of UEFA’s top national team prizes, now belong to Spain after their U-19 side claimed the European title on Monday. This latest success comes barely a month after La Roja’s U-21s claimed gold at their equivalent event in Denmark, and adds to the world and European titles currently held by the senior team. Extend this analysis to club football, and Barcelona’s UEFA Champions League crown merely cements Spain’s current position at the pinnacle of the world game. Their pre-eminence at the U-19 event in Romania was once again undisputed, with these worthy champions racking up 17 goals, five more than final opponents Czech Republic and 12 more than the third-highest scorers, Serbia. It was also Spain’s fifth title since the current format was adopted, leaving them three clear of Italy, the only other nation to have won the tournament more than once.