Midfielders make their mark
© 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. This week, we bid farewell to UEFA EURO 2008 with a look at two of the main protagonists, Xavi and Michael Ballack, while also stopping off in Brazil, Italy and the Republic of Ireland.

400

Brasileiro wins is a milestone that had been reached by only three clubs before Flamengo and Palmeiras swelled the ranks of this elite band over the weekend. The former had particular cause to celebrate reaching this landmark as their 2-1 victory away to Sport - their hosts' first home defeat in 23 matches - moved them two points clear at the league's summit. Cruzeiro, joint-second with Gremio, lost ground after letting their own proud home record slip, conceding their first goal - and first points - at the Mineirão this campaign in a 1-1 draw with Sao Paulo. A Raposa and Gremio now trail Flamengo by two points, while Palmeiras' 400th Brasileiro win took them to within a point of this duo and three of the early pacesetters. Santos, meanwhile, missed out on the chance to join the '400 club' with a 0-0 draw at Portuguesa on Saturday. O Peixe have now made their worst-ever start to a Brasileiro campaign, with just six points garnered from eight rounds and a solitary goal to show from their last six fixtures.

37

minutes was all it took for Mark Quigley of Ireland's St Patrick's Athletic's to single-handedly settle his club's 3-0 away win at Derry City with the week's fastest hat-trick. The Dublin-born 22-year-old struck three times between minutes 51 and 88 at Brandywell to fire his hometown team to within two points of Premier League leaders Bohemians. With Cork City and the defeated Derry another five points further back, St Pats would seem to have the best chance of halting Bohs and claiming their first top-flight title since 1999. Quigley himself is aiming to break into the senior international fold after reportedly impressing Giovanni Trapattoni in a recent U-23 run-out, this in the wake of finishing second-top scorer in Ireland last season and being voted Players' Young Player of the Year.

22

fouls committed and 16 suffered ensured that Michael Ballack held the dual 'distinction' of being EURO 2008's biggest sinner - and its biggest victim. In his 564 minutes of EURO action, the Germany captain was penalised more often than any other player, with his tally of 22 fouls leaving him well clear of Spain trio David Villa, Marcos Senna and Sergio Ramos, who finished joint-second in the crime count having racked up 15 fouls apiece. However, Ballack was also the most sinned-against player at the continental showpiece, falling victim to 16 fouls, two more than his nearest challenger in this category, Switzerland's Valon Behrami. Not that the Chelsea midfielder, who was hoping to shed his reputation as a perennial bridesmaid, will take much consolation from these two 'victories' after missing out on the English Premier League, UEFA Champions League and EURO 2008 all in one demoralising season.

11.44

kilometres, more than any other player on the field, was covered by Xavi during the EURO 2008 final. The Spain playmaker's exemplary workrate helped ensure that he continued to exert his intelligent influence on a tournament in which he has excelled from start to finish. During 90 never-to-be-forgotten minutes for the Spanish, their midfield fulcrum once again pulled the strings in a one-sided finale, putting in 62 passes or crosses, an impressive 87 per cent of which successfully sought out a team-mate. So often an unsung hero, the 63-times-capped 28-year-old received some long overdue recognition for the class and vision he brings to both club and country when he was named UEFA's Player of the Tournament the day after Lu Furia Roja ended their 44-year wait for major silverware.

2

defeats in 29 matches is the enviable and unsurpassed record to which Marcello Lippi was able to lay claim when he departed the Italy helm after winning the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™. It is that same negligible losing percentage of just 6.90 - a ratio none of Lippi's predecessors, nor his sole successor, can match - which convinced the Azzurri hierarchy to once again turn to the 60-year-old after a limp and much-criticised showing at EURO 2008. To put Lippi's record between 2004 and 2006 in perspective, Donadoni departed with a losing percentage of 21.74, while Arrigo Sacchi left in 1996 having lost eight of his 53 matches in charge (15.09 per cent). Even the late, great Vittorio Pozzo, the man to whom all Italian national coaches aspire, lost 17.53 per cent of his 97 matches in charge during a trophy-laden reign between 1912 and 1948.