Veterans to the fore
© AFP

In many ways, football is a simple game: the team that scores the most goals, wins. Yet in every week, in every league and 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, every week, we at FIFA.com take a look at the numbers behind the results, highlighting football's biggest winners and losers from the week just past. In this, the latest of our round-ups, we pay tribute to the evergreen duo of Edmundo and Edwin van der Sar, while highlighting the contrasting FIFA World Cup™ qualifying fortunes of China PR and USA.

94

years ago, one of the beautiful game's great rivalries was born when Brazil and Argentina met for the first time. Since then, these footballing colossuses have met 92 times and the statistics - 35 Brazilian wins, 34 for Argentina and 23 draws - say everything for just how evenly-matched South America's dominant duo have been. Brazil may boast the narrowest of advantages in this respect, but Argentina have scored more goals in their meetings - 149 to 145 - and will hope to add to that tally this evening in their 90th FIFA World Cup qualifier. The omens do not auger well, however, with Brazil - who have won each of the sides' last three meetings by a three-goal margin - boasting an unblemished record against their old rivals at this evening's venue in Belo Horizonte. Indeed, Argentina need to look back over ten years, to a 1-0 friendly win on 29 April 1998, for their last win in this famous fixture.

73

days after celebrating his 37th birthday, and two weeks after briefly announcing his retirement, the inimitable Edmundo was back among the goals on Sunday, becoming the week's oldest scorer with the opener in Vasco da Gama's 1-1 draw with Nautico. With the 37-year-old forward back at the club with which he began his extraordinary football journey in 1990, his career having come full circle, yet he proclaimed last month after missing a vital penalty that he would be hanging up his boots a year earlier than planned. Within four days, however, the man nicknamed 'The Animal' had been coaxed back into the Vasco fold. The week's youngest goalscorer, meanwhile, was also Brazilian: 19-year-old Tiago Luis. The sought-after Santos striker, who has been linked with a string of Spanish clubs including Real Madrid, Sevilla and Valencia, is currently following in the formidable footsteps of players such as Pele, Edu, Diego and Robinho, all of whom began their goalscoring exploits early at the Vila Belmiro.

26

appearances at UEFA European Championships and FIFA World Cups combined is the latest benchmark to have been set by serial Dutch record-breaker Edwin van der Sar. The Manchester United goalkeeper, who one of just five men to have participated in four separate EUROs, started the tournament by becoming the oldest player ever to represent Netherlands in a continental showpiece, starring in the Oranje's 3-0 opening win over Italy. Arnold Muhren had held that particular record for two decades, having played against the USSR at 37 years and 23 days in 1988, but it was by the comfortable margin of 199 days that Van der Sar eclipsed it against the Azzurri. Though rested for last night's match with Romania, the veteran No1 had already helped secure qualification - and made another bit of history - by surpassing the record of 25 matches at major championships he had previously shared with former team-mate Dennis Bergkamp.

8

unanswered goals against Barbados on Sunday gave USA the biggest win in the history of their men's national team. Clint Dempsey's 53-second opener was also the fastest-ever goal the US have scored in FIFA World Cup qualifying, and it set Bob Bradley's side on the road to establishing the most commanding of advantages ahead of the two-game series' return leg this Sunday. Dempsey and Brian Ching both bagged braces in the lop-sided encounter in Carson, California, with the former player somewhat stating the obvious when he reflected afterwards: "We were the better team today." Certainly, however impressive the odds may be, no-one will be rushing to bet on Barbados mounting a legendary comeback.

5

FIFA World Cup qualifiers without victory, the longest-ever winless streak in China's history, has left the Asian giants' hopes of reaching South Africa 2010 in tatters. A 2-1 defeat to Iraq on Saturday sealed their fate in front of a despondent home crowd at Tianjin's Olympic Stadium, rendering Saturday's meeting with Australia meaningless and putting the focus firmly on the future of coaches Vladimir Petrovic and Ratomir Dujkovic. The latter will lead the hosts into August's Beijing Olympics and has pledged that, despite their FIFA World Cup woes, he can take them all the way to the semi-finals. If they are to make good on their coach's promise, China's U-23s will need to find their way to goal on a more frequent basis than their senior counterparts, who managed to score just twice in their five ill-fated preliminary ties.