World Cup Qualifying Standout Stats
After spending a week discussing which national team Adnan Januzaj should play for, we finally had actual football to talk about on Friday as World Cup qualifying matches were played across the globe, with plenty of standout statistics along the way.
The main storyline from Friday's matches was the qualification of Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Colombia for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Those four nations will join 10 other countries that have already booked their spot in the greatest sporting spectacle on Earth.
Here is a look at some of the best standout stats that stuck out to fans across the globe on Friday.
RVP Passes Patrick Kluivert
In Holland's 8-1 mauling of Hungary in UEFA Group D play, Robin van Persie became the all-time leading goalscorer in Dutch history:
The Manchester United marksman broke the record previously held by Patrick Kluivert in style as he netted a hat-trick in Amsterdam.
Van Persie scored in the 16th, 44th and 52nd minutes to push his international goal total up to 41.
With his hat-trick against Hungary, Van Persie now has 11 goals in this cycle of World Cup qualifying.
Speaking after the match, Van Persie had this to say about the second goal, which clinched the record:
The greatest moment of the night was my second goal. The pass from Arjen [Robben] was brilliant. It was a floater. I only had to give the last touch with my head.
Buffon Breaks Italian Cap Record
While van Persie was breaking the goal-scoring record for Holland, goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was setting a record of his own as he led out the Azzurri in Copenhagen against Denmark.
With his appearance against the Danes in UEFA Group B, Buffon became the all-time leader in caps for Italy with 137:
Tonight @gianluigibuffon becomes the most ever capped played in the history of Italy: 137 apps, ahead of Cannavaro 136— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) October 11, 2013
Buffon eclipsed his former teammate Fabio Cannavaro, who appeared in 136 matches from 1997 to 2010.
The 35-year-old keeper made his first appearance for Italy back in October 1997 in a World Cup qualifying playoff against Russia.
In a quote translated by Kyle Bonn of Pro Soccer Talk, Buffon said of his record-breaking cap to the Italian Football Federation website, "The national team is a reference point for me, it’s the most beautiful expression of our football."
Germany Qualifies for 16th Straight World Cup
With their dominant 3-0 win in Cologne over the Republic of Ireland, Germany punched their ticket to Brazil next summer:
Germany defeats Ireland, 3-0. Germany has now qualified for its 16th straight World Cup (2nd-longest active streak).— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 11, 2013
In the process of doing just that, the Germans extended the second-longest qualification streak in the world to 16.
The only nation to qualify for the World Cup on more consecutive occasions than Die Mannschaft? Well, that would be 2014 hosts Brazil with 20.
Goal Differential Becoming Prominent Again
With just one match left for the teams involved in UEFA World Cup qualifying, the ever-present statistic of goal differential is being mentioned often in conversations.
As we all know by now, goal differential is the first tiebreaker when it comes determining the winners and second-place finishers in each group.
While it may not affect the group winners much, goal differential will affect the race to make the playoffs in Europe.
In Group B, four teams are within one point of each other with Bulgaria holding the slight advantage over Denmark for second place. Both teams are tied with 13 points, while the Czech Republic and Armenia both have 12 points.
For the Danes to overtake Bulgaria for second place, they will need to beat Malta at home on Tuesday and hope that Bulgaria either lose to or draw with the Czech Republic in Sofia.
If all of that happens, Denmark do not have to worry about making up seven goals, but if Bulgaria win and the Danes do not outscore their adversaries by eight goals, all hope will be lost for Morten Olsen's side.
Four other groups—D, E, F and H—could see goal differential decide their second-place finisher and playoff qualifier as well.
Rooney Hitting Stride When England Need Him the Most
With his 48th-minute opener against Montenegro, Wayne Rooney continued his stellar goal-scoring form for England.
In his last five World Cup qualifying matches, Rooney has bagged six goals for the Three Lions:
6 - Wayne Rooney has netted six goals in his last five World Cup qualifiers. Update.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 11, 2013
Those six goals have put Rooney atop the scoring leaderboard in UEFA Group H, where he stands two goals ahead of a quartet of players that includes two of his teammates: Frank Lampard and Danny Welbeck.
Colombia, Belgium End World Cup Droughts
While they may be separated by the Atlantic Ocean on a map, the celebrations in Colombia and Belgium on Friday night were the same as the two nations ended their respective World Cup droughts.
Belgium, which had not been to the World Cup since 2002, clinched qualification to Brazil early in the day with a 2-1 victory over Croatia in which Romelu Lukaku scored twice:
Belgium has clinched a 2014 World Cup spot ... will make first WC appearance since 2002— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 11, 2013
Colombia clinched their first World Cup berth since 1998 in dramatic fashion as they recovered from a three-goal deficit to draw with Chile, 3-3:
Colombia is headed to the 2014 World Cup. Colombia's last World Cup appearance was in 1998.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 11, 2013
Two penalties from Radamel Falcao powered Jose Pekerman's side to a valuable point against a Chile side that looked dominant in the first half.
United States Lock Up First Place in CONCACAF
After 77 minutes of groggy, disappointing play in front of their home fans at Sporting Park in Kansas City, the United States woke up and put two goals past Jamaica in the final minutes of their CONCACAF World Cup qualifying match.
With the victory, the already qualified Yanks secured first place in the hexagonal round of CONCACAF qualifying.
The clean sheet kept by Tim Howard also meant that the Americans did not concede a single goal at home in the Hex:
In last 5 cycles, #USMNT is the 3rd team not to allow a home goal in the final round (2006 U.S., 1998 Jamaica).— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) October 12, 2013
The win, which eliminated Jamaica from qualification, also clinched a perfect home record in the Hex for Jurgen Klinsmann's side.
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