Cap collectors, goal blitzes & pass masters
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Lionel Messi outranking Diego Maradona, Andrea Pirlo and Gianluigi Buffon reaching appearance milestones, goal blitzes in Fortaleza and Tashkent, and the Spanish youngsters’ exceptional ball retention feature in FIFA.com’s latest stats review.

100

caps is what Andrea Pirlo, who only made his international debut as a 23-year-old, became only the fifth Italian to reach on Sunday after Dino Zoff, Paolo Maldini, Fabio Cannavaro and Gianluigi Buffon. The 34-year-old midfielder capped the occasion in style, delivering an immaculate performance and scoring a trademark free-kick – his 13th goal for Gli Azzurri – in the 2-1 defeat of Mexico in their FIFA Confederations Cup opener. Incredibly, ten of Italy’s starting line-up came from either Juventus (6) or AC Milan (4) – Roma’s Daniele De Rossi was the odd man out – while Mexico’s XI came from nine different clubs.

91

per cent was the exceptional pass-completion rate with which Spain finished their triumphant UEFA European U-21 Championship campaign on Tuesday. Julen Lopetegui's team made 3,103 successful passes from the 3,425 they attempted – a statistic indebted to Isco and Thiago Alcantara – during a tournament which ended with a 4-2 victory over Italy extending their unbeaten run to 26 matches. Thiago’s sixth-minute header broke the deadlock against his country of birth – he was born in San Pietro Vernotico while his father, Brazil’s 1994 FIFA World Cup USA™-winning midfielder Mazinho, was playing for Lecce. However, Ciro Immobile swiftly equalised with a sumptuous chip, ending Roja goalkeeper David De Gea’s unbeaten record in the competition after 370 minutes. Thiago then netted twice before half-time to become the first player to hit a hat-trick in the UEFA European U-21 Championship decider since it became a single-match affair in 1994. The six goals made it the highest-scoring final since it adopted its current format 19 years ago, eclipsing the Netherlands’ 4-1 win over Serbia in 2007.

35

international goals is what Lionel Messi moved on to with a hat-trick in a 4-1 win over Guatemala on Friday, propelling him above Diego Maradona and into joint-second on Argentina’s list of all-time leading marksmen. La Pulga, level with Hernan Crespo, now trails only 56-goal Gabriel Batistuta. It took Messi 82 caps to reach the 35-goal mark, while Batistuta and Crespo did so in 51 and 64 respectively, but the current Albiceleste No10 did manage it at a younger age. Indeed the Barcelona mega-star, who turns 26 later this month, had 19 months on the Fiorentina legend and six years on the man who became the world’s most expensive player when he moved from Parma to Lazio in 2000.

18

seconds is all it took Uzbekistan’s Bahodir Nasimov to equalise against Qatar, with his first touch after rising from the bench, on Tuesday. It proved the first of five Uzbeki goals in 30 minutes – one every six minutes – as they desperately chased automatic qualification for Brazil 2014. Had Korea Republic protected their eight-year home unbeaten run in FIFA World Cup™ preliminaries against Iran, Uzbekistan would have achieved their target. However, Reza Ghoochannejhad scored with the Iranians’ first shot on the hour, and Carlos Queiroz’s men hung on to keep their sixth clean sheet in eight fourth-round qualifiers and advance as Group A winners. Korea Republic pipped Uzbekistan for the section’s final direct ticket to Brazil by one on goal difference, sending Mirjalol Qosimov into a two-legged meeting with Jordan for the right to enter the intercontinental play-off.

7

 goals is what made Italy’s enthralling 4-3 win over Japan on Wednesday the joint-second highest-scoring game in FIFA Confederations Cup history, shy only of Brazil’s 8-2 thrashing of Saudi Arabia in 1999. Ironically, the last time Gli Azzurri trailed 2-1 at half-time, against New Zealand in 2009, they went on to win 4-3. This time around three goals in 11 minutes proved instrumental in Italy’s success. One of those was posted by Mario Balotelli, who in the process became the second-youngest Italian to reach ten international goals behind Giuseppe Meazza. For his part, goalkeeper Buffon won his 130th cap for Italy, moving him just six behind the only man above him on the list, Fabio Cannavaro.