Tricksters thrive as England & Spain suffer
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Neymar and Andres Iniesta setting fouls-suffered records, Brazil ending Spanish hegemony, England’s FIFA U-20 World Cup misery and another stunning comeback in the California Clásico feature in FIFA.com’s latest stats review.

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points from a possible 42 made New Radiant the earliest team to be crowned Maldivan Dhivehi League champions and the first to do so with a 100 per cent record on Saturday. Second-placed Maziya blew a two-goal cushion to lose 3-2 at home to BG Sports – a result which ensured Velizar Popov’s Blues won the title without having kicked a ball in the final third. New Radiant celebrated making it back-to-back triumphs in emphatic fashion the following day, thrashing AYL 10-0 to make it maximum points from a possible 45. Legendary Maldives forward Ali Ashfaq hit five goals – including a handsome free-kick and another after a terrific dribble past four opponents – during what was the Male giants’ biggest victory of the season. It took the tally of ‘Man of Steel’ to 37 goals in all competitions this campaign, just two short of his personal best. New Radiant have now won 18 straight league matches and are unbeaten in 34 since a 3-0 loss at home to Maziya in September 2011.

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free-kicks was the unrivalled total trickster extraordinaire Neymar won at the FIFA Confederations Cup, and they certainly aided Brazil’s conquest. From one, the 21-year-old’s cross led to Dante’s deadlock-breaker against Italy, while from another in that same game he exquisitely curled the ball inside Gianluigi Buffon’s left-hand post en route to a 4-2 win. Then, in the Final, Neymar skipped past Gerard Pique, who brought his new Barcelona team-mate down and was consequently sent off as his Spain side lost 3-0. Italy forward Mario Balotelli was the next most-fouled player at Brazil 2013 on 17, while the eight free-kicks Andres Iniesta drew in the decider was a record for a Roja player in a match during Vicente Del Bosque’s five-year reign. Surprisingly, Neymar was also the player who committed the most fouls at the tournament (17).

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 competitive matches unbeaten: that was the world record that came to an end for Spain against Brazil in Sunday’s FIFA Confederations Cup Final. The previous best was the 27 games France went without defeat in non-friendlies between 1994 and ’99. La Roja’s last loss in a competitive fixture was 1-0 to Switzerland in their 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ opener, but they have since won 24 and drawn five across that competition, UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying and its finals, the Brazil 2014 preliminaries and this FIFA Confederations Cup. The last time Spain lost a competitive match by more than two goals was in 1985, when an Ian Rush double and a Mark Hughes goal earned Wales a 3-0 success in a FIFA World Cup™ qualifier.

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entire campaigns – and 17 matches – without victory in the FIFA U-20 World Cup were the remarkable unwanted records with which England exited Turkey 2013 on Saturday. The Three Lions’ last win in the competition was in their final group game at Malaysia 1997, when a solitary Michael Owen strike undid Mexico. That sent them through to the Round of 16 with a 100 per cent record, but they fell at the next hurdle 2-1 to eventual champions Argentina, whose marksmen were Juan Riquelme and Pablo Aimar. A squad including Ashley Cole and Peter Crouch lost all three matches at Nigeria 1999, while England seized just one point from a possible nine en route to first-phase exits at UAE 2003 and Egypt 2009. Two years ago in Colombia, the north-western European nation drew all three of their group games 0-0 to sneak into the knockout phase as one of the best third-placed teams, before losing 1-0 to Nigeria. Two-nil up with 15 minutes remaining in their opener against Iraq at the ongoing FIFA U-20 World Cup, England seemed all but sure to arrest their winless run, but an 11th-hour equaliser denied them. Peter Taylor’s side then drew with Chile and were beaten 2-0 by Egypt. That was England’s tenth defeat in their 17-game winless run, during which time they have scored a mere five goals (one every 3.4 matches on average).

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goals is what San Jose Earthquakes, despite being at a numerical disadvantage, scored in stoppage time to complete another stunning comeback victory over Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday. At a two-goal deficit away to the Galaxy, with just 15 minutes remaining in the sides’ first meeting of last season, the Goonies sealed a 3-2 victory when Alan Gordon headed home in the fourth minute of added time. One month later, the San Jose side again came back from being two goals down to win the California Clásico 4-3. This time around, the Quakes trailed 2-0 with little over 20 minutes to play, and though striker Gordon halved that advantage with his first goal in eight appearances, the hosts’ fightback chances took a huge blow when Victor Bernardez picked up two quick-fire yellow cards and was consequently sent off. However, Shea Salinas pounced on a loose ball to equalise in the 92nd minute, before 83 seconds later another Gordon header snatched interim coach Mark Watson’s men victory, and sent delirious a 50,000-plus sell-out crowd at Stanford Stadium.