History stirs preliminary passions
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In many ways, football is a simple game: the team that scores the most goals, wins. Yet in every week, league and match, there are intriguing statistical sub-plots that help make the beautiful game the fascinating spectacle that it is. That's why, every week, FIFA.com takes a look at the numbers behind the results.

This week's review focuses on the FIFA World Cup™ preliminary showdowns involving Brazil, Venezuela, Germany, Russia, Romania and France, while also acknowledging the achievements of Wayne Rooney and Reuben Noble-Lazarus.

311

minutes without conceding is the record with which Brazil and their goalkeeper Julio Cesar arrive in Venezuela for Sunday's vital FIFA World Cup qualifier. The Seleção No1 has not conceded at international level since Salvador Cabanas scored in the 49th-minute of Paraguay's shock 2-0 win on 15 June, and Brazil will have more than just a miserly defensive record on their side in San Cristobal. After all, the Auriverde have emerged triumphant from all seven of their previous visits to Venezuela and boast an unblemished record against the Vinotinto in 12 FIFA World Cup preliminary meetings. Nevertheless, it's only a few months since Dunga became the first Brazilian coach to lose to the Venezuelans, when Robinho and Co slumped to a shock 2-0 friendly defeat in Boston.

200

Premier League appearances was the milestone reached by Wayne Rooney at Blackburn on Saturday, and the Manchester United celebrated the landmark in style by bagging his 70th top flight goal. It is now almost six years since the 22-year-old became the Premier League's youngest-ever goalscorer, ending Arsenal's 30-match unbeaten run with a stunning strike for Everton just five days before his 17th birthday. Since then, only four players have scored more goals in the country's top tier: Thierry Henry (116), Robbie Keane (81), Ruud van Nistelrooy (72) and Aiyegbeni Yakubu (71).

96

years ago, Germany and Russia locked horns for the first time during the 1912 Olympic Football Tournament in Stockholm. It was to prove an historic meeting, with Russia's second-ever international match ending in an inauspicious 16-0 drubbing that remains a record for both nations. The Germans are unlikely to have it so easy on Saturday, however, when they return to Dortmund's Westfalenstadion for the first time since that unforgettable semi-final defeat to Italy during the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Guus Hiddink's side are, after all, widely considered the greatest threat to Germany's hopes of reaching South Africa, although the Russians do have to look back over half-a-century for their last win on German soil: a 2-1 victory for the former USSR in Hanover in 1956.

45

days after celebrating his 15th birthday, Barnsley's Reuben Noble-Lazarus became the English Football League's youngest-ever player last week, breaking a record that has stood for almost 80 years. By coming off the bench in his side's 3-0 defeat at Ipswich Town, the youngster surpassed by 113 days the benchmark set in 1929 by Bradford Park Avenue's Albert Geldard, who went on to earn four England caps. Noble-Lazarus, who is too young to be paid for his efforts, returned to school the following the day, where he was brought back down to earth by a "clip round the ear" from his headmaster for walking slowly in the corridor. He has also found himself dropped from his school team over fears that his rise to prominence will see him targeted for aggressive marking by opposition teams.

10

matches, three draws and seven defeats. That is the dismal FIFA World Cup qualifying record in Eastern Europe with which France travel to Romania this week. Although this unwanted tally has been racked up by defeats to Bulgaria, East Germany, USSR and Yugoslavia, it is not the kind of confidence-booster an under-pressure Raymond Domenech would have wanted ahead of renewing hostilities with a formidable foe. Romania certainly proved a match for Les Bleus during UEFA EURO 2008, securing a 0-0 draw that kicked off a disastrous campaign for Domenech's side. If there is one crumb of historical comfort to which the French can cling, it is that they have won away to Romania on 11 October before; in 1995, when goals from Christian Karembeu, Youri Djorkaeff and Zinedine Zidane secured a 3-1 victory.