The new record total of 1,424 men's and women's full internationals in a single year includes a treasure trove of facts for football fans and statisticians alike. For the third time since 2000 and 2004, the men’s game exceeded the 1,000-match mark, although the women’s total dipped as normal in the year following a FIFA Women's World Cup™. FIFA.com has picked out the most significant highlights.
The total of 1,060 matches fell just a shade short of the record of 1,065 set in 2004. Almost exactly half were friendly matches, with FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers accounting for another 40 per cent.
533 friendlies is a new record, easily beating the previous best of 475 which stood for a decade after 1998.
196 of FIFA’s 208 member associations played at least one match, a higher total than ever before.
Trinidad and Tobago contested 28 matches. Nine teams played 20 times or more, all from North and Central America, and Asia.
FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking leaders Spain remained undefeated in 16 matches. Korea Republic and Iran went 15 games without defeat. Spain have not lost in 28 matches and are closing in on their own previous best run, 31 matches in the 1990s, itself only ever bettered by Brazil’s 36.
The early-February meeting between El Salvador and Anguilla produced no fewer than 12 goals, all for the home team.
The average number of international fixtures per country was 11.
Spain and Iran both chalked up 8-game winning streaks. In the UEFA EURO 2008 quarter-finals, the Italian defence marshalled by keeper Gianluigi Buffon ended the eventual European champions' run of 16 victories in as many matches.
+ The highest number of world ranking points for an individual victory in 2008 went to the Netherlands, who beat FIFA World Cup holders Italy 3-0 during their superb start at UEFA EURO 2008.
There were 364 women’s full internationals in 2008, significantly fewer than in previous years, when FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifiers boosted the total.
94 teams entered the fray.
The USA completed an impressive 36 fixtures. Far from resting on their laurels after collecting Olympic gold in Beijing, the American aces ran out in front of their adoring home crowds a further eight times before the end of the year.
The USA also set the standards in terms of results, with 34 victories for the year, 22 of them in a row.
Korea Republic netted 13 times in an Asian championship qualifier against Malaysia.
The 100 or so active teams played an average of 8 matches apiece.
Oceania hosted 1 solitary match, compared to 161 in Europe. Some 86 matches were intercontinental clashes, a higher total than the men’s game.
+ Norway collected the single biggest world ranking points boost in 2008 after handing the USA their sole defeat of the calendar year.