Strikers put in the shade
In many ways, football is a simple game: the team that scores the most goals, wins. Yet in every single match, there are intriguing statistical sub-plots that help make the beautiful game the fascinating spectacle that it is. That's why, each week, FIFA.com takes a look at the numbers behind the results.
Thanks to the efforts of Spain, Australia and Irish champions Bohemians, this latest review finds itself somewhat short on goals, although US striker Kenny Cooper does his best to redress the balance.
minutes without conceding is the remarkable run that Spain have strung together since Angelos Charisteas of Greece scored against them on 18 June. In fact, should La Furia Roja keep Belgium at bay this evening, they will set a new record of eight successive clean sheets - no mean feat considering they have faced the likes of Italy, Russia and Germany during this run. The previous high-water mark of seven was set between 11 March 1992 and 27 January 1993 and was equalled for the second time in Saturday's 3-0 win over Estonia. Italy still hold the European record for successive clean sheets, having racked up 12 between 1972 and '74, but one achievement in which Spain are utterly unrivalled is their running sequence of 38 unbeaten FIFA World Cup™ qualifying matches.
caps is the milestone that Edwin van der Sar will reach when he keeps goal for the Netherlands in Norway this evening. In doing so, the Manchester United No1 will become the joint-third most-capped goalkeeper in history, joining colourful Mexican legend Jorge Campos on the 130-mark and overtaking Peter Schmeichel, whose record he emulated against Iceland on Saturday. The 37-year-old, who has come out of international retirement to cover for injuries to Bert van Marwijk's first and second-choice keepers, had already surpassed the likes of Andoni Zubizarreta (126 caps), Peter Shilton (125) and Pat Jennings (119). However, matching the tallies of Saudi Arabia's Mohamed Al-Daeyea or Sweden's Thomas Ravelli - who retired with 181 and 143 caps respectively - would appear highly unlikely, given Van der Sar's insistence that he will step back into the shadows once his successor, Maarten Stekelenburg, returns to fitness.
matches unbeaten and 12 victories on the bounce are the sequences that have combined to crown Bohemians as Irish champions with four games to spare. The Dublin club have lost just once all season, conceded a miserly 11 goals in the process, and also chalked up a new points record en route to securing their first trophy in six years. Striker Glen Crowe provided further cause for celebration by smashing the club's all-time scoring record, capping an unforgettable season that has yielded the club's 10th league championship, achieved under an inspirational manager in Pat Fenlon, who won a trio of titles with Shelbourne between 2003 and 2006.
goals in his last three games have taken Kenny Cooper to within a solitary strike of long-time leader Landon Donovan at the top of the Major League Soccer scoring charts. The Dallas star has made a habit of striking late, with three of those four recent strikes coming in the 89th minute or later, the most recent of which completed a brace in Saturday's 2-2 draw with Toronto and took the 23-year-old's league tally to 18. The towering striker's main rival was also in goalscoring action over the weekend, of course, although Donovan's strike in USA's 6-1 win over Cuba does not help him in the increasingly tight race to finish as MLS's top marksman.
goals-per-match is the surprisingly low scoring average that Australia have mustered thus far in their first Asian Zone FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign. Of all the teams still competing in the continent's fourth round of qualifiers, only Iran have scored as few goals, with this evening's visitors to Brisbane, Qatar, boasting an average of 1.5. Unfortunately for Bruno Metsu's side, they are also the only Asian side against whom Australia have scored more than once in this qualifying campaign; even worse, the Socceroos have managed it twice already this year. On both occasions, they put three past the Qataris, winning 3-0 in Melbourne back in February before cruising to a 3-1 victory in Doha four months later.