A penalty, a free-kick and a vicious volley feature in *FIFA.com’s *latest stats review, along with a Qatari blitz, Reggae relief and Welsh records.
112 seconds of normal time remained when Simon Dawkins saved Jamaica from an implausible FIFA World Cup™ qualifying elimination. The France 1998 participants and recent CONCACAF Gold Cup finalists were expected to cruise to victory over Nicaragua and reach the fourth round of the regional preliminaries for Russia 2018, only for a country in which baseball and boxing are the most popular sports to race into a three-goal lead in Kingston. Jamaica pulled two goals back to travel with a slim deficit to Managua, where Darren Mattocks gave them an early lead. With time almost up, though, Winfried Schafer’s men were heading out on the away-goals rule, until Dawkins’ exquisite half-volley spared them from becoming the first reigning Gold Cup finalists to fail to reach this stage of CONCACAF qualifying for the global finals.
100 matches after last scoring directly from a free-kick, France finally repeated the trick on Friday. Jerome Rothen had got *Les Bleus’ *previous one with a superb strike in a 6-0 win over Faroe Islands in UEFA EURO 2008 qualifying, and Mathieu Valbuena ended the eight-year drought with a late set-piece to snatch a 1-0 friendly success in Portugal. The pocket-sized playmaker has been directly involved in 20 goals under Didier Deschamps (six goals, 14 assists) – more than any other player. Incredibly, the result was France’s tenth successive victory over Portugal since a 2-0 loss in Paris way back in 1975. The 1998 world champions followed that up with a 2-1 defeat of Serbia in Bordeaux, with Blaise Matuidi bagging both their goals – the second of which was a volley registered at a staggering 105km/h. Matuidi has now scored as many doubles (two) in 37 caps for France as he has in 337 appearances in Ligue 1.
50 goals was the figure Wayne Rooney became the first England player to reach on Tuesday, breaking the record Sir Bobby Charlton set in 1970. It seemed a foregone conclusion that Gary Lineker would surpass the 1966 FIFA World Cup™ winner’s milestone when he netted his 48th goal for the Three Lions in 1992. Thereafter, however, the Tottenham Hotspur striker missed a penalty against Brazil and failed to score in his last six internationals. Alan Shearer and Michael Owen also appeared destined to outrank Charlton, but both fell short. Rooney, though, moved on to 49 goals from 106 internationals – the exact same totals with which Charlton retired – with a penalty in Saturday’s 6-0 thrashing of San Marino, and it was again from the spot that the he joined the half-century club in a 2-0 defeat of Switzerland at Wembley. That ensured the 29-year-old became the first post-World War II player to score in seven competitive games for England, who boast the only 100 per cent record in UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying.
15 unanswered goals is what Qatar put past Bhutan to almost double their all-time biggest victory. Mohammed Muntari and Ali Assadalla each contributed hat-tricks to this record result. Bhutan were one of three Asian teams dealt their heaviest defeat in FIFA World Cup qualifying history last Thursday, with Malaysia and Myanmar losing 10-0 to United Arab Emirates and 9-0 to Kuwait respectively, as mercurial No10 Omar Abdulrahman supplied an incredible six assists for the former. The 31 Asian qualifiers for Russia 2018 completed over the past week produced a lofty 28 clean sheets.
5 successive clean sheets – and ten games undefeated – are milestones Wales reached for the first time in history to move to the cusp of qualifying for their first major tournament since 1958. In his 50th international, Wayne Hennessey helped the Dragons to a 1-0 win in Cyprus on Thursday to equal their personal best of four games without conceding, set in 1981. The Crystal Palace keeper then successfully defended the Welsh net in a 0-0 draw at home to Israel on Sunday, leaving Chris Coleman’s side on a run of 504 minutes without having leaked a goal. A towering Gareth Bale header seized victory against the Cypriots on a sunny evening in Nicosia. The Real Madrid express train has now scored six and assisted two of Wales’ nine goals in UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying.