As fans the world over eagerly await the start of the South American qualifiers for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ this weekend, whets your appetite with some intriguing stats from the region’s previous preliminary competitions.

Want to discover the top scorer in the history of the South American qualifiers? Think you know the teams with the competition’s best and worst records? You will find the answers to these and more teasing questions as we set the scene for the Brazil 2014 qualifiers with 14 stats from one of the most fiercely contested competitions in international football.

1 The number of South American teams never to have graced the finals of a FIFA World Cup. That distinction belongs to Venezuela who, after an impressive fourth-place finish at the recent Copa America, will be keen to put that right when qualifying gets underway this Friday.

2.16 The number of goals-per-game averaged by Brazil in the history of the qualifiers. O Seleção, who as 2014 hosts will not contest this preliminary competition, have also scored the most goals (199 in 92 games) and conceded the fewest (59, an average of 0.64 per game).

5 This preliminary competition will be the fifth in succession to adopt a single-group, home-and-away league format. Curiously, the order of games will be the same as that used in the four previous single-group editions. The last qualifying tournament to use the multiple-group format was that prior to USA 1994, when the nine competing teams were split into two sections. Chile, being suspended at the time, took no part in that competition.

8 The most consecutive wins in the history of the South American qualifiers, achieved by Brazil between 1977 and 1985. The sequence came to an end on 23 June that year when Paraguay held the five-time world champions 1-1 away from home. Eight was also the number of goals scored in the tournament’s biggest win – Brazil’s 8-0 rout of Bolivia on 14 July 1977 in a final-round game.

9 The most goals scored in a South American qualifying fixture. The feat has been achieved on three occasions: in 6-3 wins for Argentina over Ecuador (1960) and Peru over Venezuela (1965), as well as in Chile’s 7-2 rout of Colombia, also in 1965. 

15 The number of qualifying competitions contested by Paraguay, the most of any South American side.

19 The number of goals scored by the Argentinian Hernan Crespo, making him the competition’s leading marksman. The former River Plate prodigy, who netted against every side bar Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay in the preliminary competition, is closely followed in the standings by former Chilean strikers Marcelo Salas (18) and Ivan Zamorano (17).

25 The number of successive games in which Argentina managed to score. The sequence, which represents a competition record, was set between 1997 and 2004 and came to an end on 6 June that year with the Albiceleste’s scoreless draw against Paraguay in Buenos Aires.

31 The most consecutive games a team has gone unbeaten. The record was set by Brazil between 1954 and 1993 and finally came to an end with a 2-0 defeat against Bolivia in La Paz.

37 The total number of draws Colombia have recorded in this competition, more than any other side. To date Los Cafeteros have graced three FIFA World Cup finals but have yet to make an impact on the world stage. In their last appearance, at France 1998, they bowed out after the first round.

59 The number of qualifying wins enjoyed by Argentina, the most of any of the region’s sides. La Albiceleste have qualified for the final phase of the last ten FIFA World Cups. The last time they failed to reach world football’s showpiece event was ahead of Mexico 1970, when Peru secured top spot in their group and a place at the finals with a 2-2 draw in Buenos Aires.

74 The numbers of defeats suffered by Venezuela, making them the most vanquished team in the competition’s history. La Vinotinto’s record has been improving steadily in recent editions, however, and in the race for South Africa 2010 they finished just two points behind Uruguay, who took the play-off berth.

120 The total number of games played by Paraguay. La Albirroja have contested more qualifying fixtures than any other side and have reached the finals of the last four FIFA World Cups.

561 The number of qualifying fixtures played to date, including those contested by CONMEBOL sides in intercontinental play-offs.

1467 The number of goals scored to date in the region’s qualifying fixtures. Since the current qualifying format has been in place, the preliminary competition for Germany 2006 has produced the most goals, 235, compared to 232 ahead of Korea/Japan 2002 and South Africa 2010. The qualifiers for France 1998, in which Brazil were not required to participate as defending champions, produced the fewest strikes, 184.