In two weeks' time, 32 names will go into the hat for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ Final Draw, all with their own story to tell from the preliminary phase. The road to South Africa started way back on 25 August 2007 in Oceania, three months before the Preliminary Draw even took place, and concluded late on Wednesday with the final play-off match between Uruguay and Costa Rica. This unique and enthralling competition threw up plenty of drama, tension and excitement and, as you will see, it also yielded a whole host of fascinating facts and figures.
million fans, a record number, attended the biggest FIFA World Cup qualification campaign of all time, while the average attendance of 23,000 also sets a high-water mark. The undisputed leaders in this respect were Mexico, whose home matches attracted a total attendance of almost 735,000 fans, or almost 82,000 per match. England's triumphant campaign, meanwhile, was watched live by an impressive 80,000 fans per match.
players took part in total. While the Netherlands were able to make do with just 25, Argentina used double that amount. Even more players were used by the likes of Bolivia, Colombia and Peru (56). Also involved were 310 referees and 650 assistants.
goals were scored in total, considerably less than in the previous two campaigns. The average number of goals per game was 2.75, the lowest in 20 years. Evidence of improved defensive organisation perhaps, but maybe a bad omen for next year's finals. The fewest goals scored at a FIFA World Cup ever was at Italy 1990 (2.21 per match).
is the record number of matches it took to whittle down the 31 finalists - six more than were needed four years ago. There was one unexpected extra match at the end as the deadlock between Egypt and Algeria meant a deciding fixture was required. Almost a third of matches were played in Europe (268 or 31 per cent), with Africa (202) and Asia (145) not far behind.
goals were scored by players wearing the No9 shirt. Almost as many were scored by No10s (334), while 257 were scored by No11s.
coaches from 135 countries led 200 teams through the qualification race. The French supplied the highest number with 14, while there were 12 Dutchmen, ten Brazilians and ten Germans.
teams took part in the 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification campaign, also a new record and an increase on the previous best of 194. Included in the total are Tuvalu, not an official FIFA member, who took part in the South Pacific Games, and indeed host nation South Africa, who competed in an attempt to secure their place at the CAF African Cup of Nations.
qualifying matches, or 19 per cent, finished with a scoreline of 1-0. This result, combined the second and third-most common scorelines - 2-0 and 2-1 - accounted for almost 50 per cent of matches. Seventy three matches, or nine per cent, ended goalless.
years and one month was the age at the South Africa 2010 preliminaries’ oldest player, Monserrat's Kenny Dyer, competed, while the youngest, Abdi Abdifatah of Somalia, had just turned 14.
goals were scored by the USA in their 18 matches, while New Zealand needed just 15 over eight games to book their ticket to the finals. Mexico's, meanwhile, goals were scored by no less than 19 different players, five of which were penalties. Subtitutes accounted for 11 of those strikes, far more than any other team.
years and four months - the average age of the squad which took Italy to their 17th FIFA World Cup – made Gli Azzurri the oldest of any of the qualified teams. Marcello Lippi’s squad were almost five years older than fellow participants Korean DPR, whose status as the youngest was secured by an average age of just 22 years and five months.
matches were contested by Uruguay en route to South Africa 2010, the same number as the team they defeated to clinch their place, Costa Rica. The Netherlands and New Zealand, by contrast, played just eight matches apiece during their successful campaigns.
FIFA World Cup qualifying campaigns have taken place since 1934, and Portugal are the only South Africa 2010 participant to have competed in every one. Of the teams who didn’t make it to South Africa, Luxembourg and the Republic of Ireland have also taken part in every preliminary campaign .
goals were scored in the highest-scoring match, a game which also provided the biggest victory: Fiji 16-0 Tuvalu.
goals scored by Moumouni Dagano and Osea Vakatalesau established the Burkina Faso and Fiji strikers as the preliminary stage’s leading marskmen, two ahead of Greek striker Theofanis Gekas and Chilean Humberto Suazo.
teams remained unbeaten throughout preliminary stage. As well as finalists Côte d’Ivoire, Germany, Italy, Korea Republic, Nigeria, Spain and the Netherlands, the British Virgin Islands also emerged undefeated, but fell victim to the away goals rule following two draws against the Bahamas.
consecutive successful qualifying campaigns have now been racked up by seven teams: over the past 20 years, Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Korea Republic, Spain and USA have all made it to each tournament.
goals per game scored gave England the best record of any of the qualified teams. Far less free-scoring were Korea DPR, who only managed an average of 1.25 per match.