Aerial intrigue & a history of thrills
A FIFA Confederations Cup packed full of drama, passion and excitement will reach its climax tomorrow when South Africa 2009's surprise packages face up to the most successful team in tournament's history. As USA and Brazil limber up for a final that, if history is anything to go by, should be a thriller, FIFA.com looks at the statistical stories adding intrigue to this South African showpiece.
minutes without conceding have taken Julio Cesar to within another clean sheet of the second-longest unbeaten sequence in FIFA Confederations Cup history. The Brazil keeper's record since that dramatic 4-3 opening win over Egypt already leaves him in joint-fourth position, and if USA fail to break through tomorrow, he will move beyond both Idriss Kameni of Cameroon (367 minutes) and Mexico's Oswaldo Sanchez (368) in the competition's goalkeeping hall of fame. It is Julio Cesar's predecessor and fellow countryman, Dida, who holds the Festival of Champions' all-time record, having survived 503 minutes without being beaten between the 1997 and 1999 editions.
wins in FIFA men's competitions was the milestone secured for Brazil by Daniel Alves' free-kick against South Africa, and afterwards it was noted in FIFA.com's statistical review that A Seleção have traditionally scored 27.2 per cent of their goals at FIFA World Cups from outside the box. Yet while this is almost double the average of 15.7 per cent, the Barcelona wingback's goal actually proved to be the exception at South Africa 2009 - a tournament that has witnessed the South Americans subvert all manner of traditions. With set pieces and headed goals already identified as unusual sources of strength, it has also now been discovered by Castrol Performance Analysts that Brazil have a created a higher percentage of chance inside the box than any of their fellow participants. Whatever their reasons for this approach, it is paying off, with Dunga's side boasting the tournament's best shooting accuracy and chance conversion rates - 20.4 and 48.1 per cent respectively - and, most importantly, its biggest goal tally (11).
headed clearances, more than any team at South Africa 2009, would seem to qualify USA as the best-equipped team to handle Brazil's well-established aerial threat. The South Americans have scored three headed goals already at this tournament and gone close with eight further headed attempts, but they may have met their match in the tall, aggressive Americans. Bob Bradley's side proved against Spain that defending their area against crosses is a major strength, and Castrol Performance Analysts found that their overall record of 56 headed duels won cannot be bettered at this tournament. Tim Howard also aids this particular cause. In his three appearances so far, the Everton keeper has come from his goal to successfully deal with five crosses, more than any keeper at South Africa 2009. Howard also continues to lead the way on saves made, with his tally of 25 dwarfing those of Julio Cesar (12) and Iker Casillas (6).
goals per game is the astonishing average served up by Brazil's three FIFA Confederations Cup finals to date. The Festival of Champions' showpiece match has a highly respectable overall average of 3.7 goals per game, but thrills have been in even greater supply when A Seleção have been involved. Over three finals in 1997, 1999 and 2005, the South Americans racked up an aggregate score of 11-5, taking home the trophy twice and losing out on one occasion. Encouragingly for USA - and indeed for the spectators at Ellis Park - that solitary disappointment came against a team from CONCACAF, with Mexico triumphing 4-3 in what is widely considered to be the greatest-ever FIFA Confederations Cup final. Yet the Americans should also be aware that Africa is a continent in which Brazil feel particularly comfortable, with A Seleção's record in the mother continent comprising 14 wins, no defeats and not even a single draw.