A ‘Little Ghost’ scores a stunner for Panama
**'Merlin' proving he’s a scorer as well as a sorcerer**
**A fairy tale return from the wilderness**
701 minutes: that is how long Zambia had gone without scoring against Algeria until they ended a seven-match, 35-year winless run in the fixture with back-to-back victories. Les Fennecs, who came mightily close to eliminating eventual champions Germany from the Round of 16 at Brazil 2014, and who boast Nabil Bentaleb, Yacine Brahimi, Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani, are now unable to reach next year's FIFA World Cup™.
103 years had passed since France failed to beat Luxembourg until a shock 0-0 draw in Toulouse, where they had been unbeaten since an unanswered Ian Rush goal earned Wales victory there in 1982. Following a 5-4 defeat in 1914, Les Bleus had won 14 successive games against Les Lions Rouges, scoring 55 goals and conceding just six.
92 minutes and four seconds were on the clock when Omar Al Soma, back in the international fold for the first time in five years, snatched Syria a 2-2 draw away to Iran that dramatically moved them closer to the World Cup than they have ever been. The towering 28-year-old’s close-range strike – merely eight seconds after Syria won possession in their own half – seized Ayman Hakeem’s team, on goal difference at the expense of Uzbekistan, a meeting with Australia for the right to represent Asia in the intercontinental playoff.
73 metres from goal: that is where Gabriel Torres received possession en route to breaking the deadlock in Panama’s 3-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago in the Hexagonal. ‘The Little Ghost’ amazingly took just four touches and eight seconds to go from collecting the ball to rippling the net.
60 years is what it took Uruguay to finally record their first victory in Paraguay in World Cup qualifying. A goal from Fede Valverde, the adidas Silver Ball recipient at the recent FIFA U-20 World Cup, on his full international debut helped La Celeste win for the first time in seven matches.
42 years after they first played away to Argentina, Venezuela avoided defeat there for the first time with a 1-1 draw. La Vinotinto had lost their first nine meetings at La Albiceleste, conceding 41 goals and scoring just three.
35 years had passed since a player bagged six goals in his first eight appearances for Germany until history was repeated. Pierre Littbarski managed it by bagging a brace against Norway in 1982 and Timo Werner followed suit by, coincidentally, bagging a brace against Norway.
20 years had passed since Peru won three straight World Cup preliminaries – Nolberto Solano, Roberto Palacios helped them do it in 1997 – until Edison Flores inspired the repetition of the same feat. The 23-year-old has netted six goals from midfield in his last eight internationals, while La Blanquirroja have leapt from eighth to fourth in three rounds.
10 goals in his last 39 appearances for Serbia is what left-back Aleksandar Kolarov, who failed to score in his first 31 internationals, has registered. Only Nikola Zigic (16), Milan Jovanovic (12) and Branislav Ivanovic (11) have netted more for the Eagles. Kolarov’s efforts against Moldova and Republic of Ireland helped Serbia make it 11 matches unbeaten in World Cup qualifying.
9 goals in 11 games is the admirable run midfielder David Silva is on for Spain. It has rocketed 'Merlin', who is the only man to play all 12 Spain games since Julen Lopetegui took charge, on to 33 international goals, behind only Fernando Torres (38), Raul (44) and David Villa (59).