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Quarter-finals: Call for statistical sideshows

india Updated: Jun 30, 2006 03:40 IST
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The joy of six is just one statistical byword as the World Cup gets down to the nitty gritty of the quarter-finals, with the half dozen previous winners who qualified for the event still in the hunt.

Only Uruguay, champions in 1930 and 1950, are missing from the field but Brazil, Argentina, England, France, Germany and Italy are all still standing after four games.

But those who delight in the statistical sideshow may like to know that this, the 17th World Cup, has thrown up a shoal of other oddities.

The hard luck award definitely goes to the Swiss, who uniquely went home after failing to concede a goal - their desperate shortcomings from the penalty spot against Ukraine saw to that.

Ronaldo may be the top scorer in tournament history with 15 but Gerd Muller - to say nothing of French legend Just Fontaine - retain the better goals per game ratio with Muller netting 14 in 13 and Fontaine 13 in just six matches, to Ronaldo's 15 in 18.

Talking of goals, there were 132 in the opening games - for an average of 2.36, which compares badly with the 2002 final average of 2.52 and only Italia '90 was worse with a final average of 2.21.

The record average of 5.38 in Switzerland in 1954 admittedly came over just 26 matches.

At least the average crowd of 51,526 is the best, pro-rata, since USA '94., comfortably the most well-attended ever with an average of 68,991. This year's crowds are set to be the second largest ever.

Among other issues worth tackling is ... tackling. And being good at the art is no guarantee of success.

Angola made the best rate of successful tackles at 86.3 per cent, whereas Argentina, Brazil and England were well down the list on that measure between 66 and 74 per cent.

Kings of the 'virtual assist' are David Beckham, who has set up 15 chances, just behind Bastian Schweinsteiger, of Germany, Luis Figo, of Portugal - who has also suffered the most fouls - and Stephen Appiah, of Ghana.

But Schweinsteiger and Juan Roman Riquelme take the plaudits when it comes to the real assist, directly involved in creating three goals each for their teams.

If Figo is fed up with being fouled then French striker Thierry Henry is fed up with falling foul of the flag - the linesman's for offside that is - the Arsenal star's fate on 15 occasions.

For the real anoraks, if goals are in relatively short supply - unlike red cards, of which there have been a record 25 already - passes in the opposition's half are worth a mention.

There, Riquelme bows to nobody with 259 and it says much about the Latin style that Brazilian counterpart Ronaldinho, still to find his best form here, is not far behind with 245.

The passers in the remaining quarter-finalists have been positively in stroll mode by comparison with Italy's Andrea Pirlo on 196, German's Bernd Schneider on 168 and former Real Madrid clubmates Beckham, Figo and Zinedine Zidane bringing up the rear on 158, 152 and 133 respectively.

One coach who may be a little concerned if he delves into the stats with all the enthusiasm of a trainspotter is Chelsea's Jose Mourinho.

To date, Messrs Frank Lampard, Michael Ballack and Michael Essien have taken a potshot at goal 48 times between them.

Their combined goals tally - zero.

Soon, they'll be telling us how many yards the players have run - just as in American football.

US coach Bruce Arena evidently hopes not, telling reporters ahead of a first-round exit, "you have to realise that the only statistic which counts is the number of goals you score."

cw/ak

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