The week in numbers: w/e 3/4/11

24Novak Djokovic defeated world number one Rafael Nadal 4-6 6-3 7-6 to claim the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, his fourth title of the year. His 2011 record is now 24-0, the best start to a year in men’s tennis since Ivan Lendl had 25 consecutive victories in 1986.

9 – Total points scored by Matthew Stevens in his 5-0 defeat by Stephen Hendry at the China Open. It was the lowest aggregate score ever in a televised best-of-nine match. Hendry scored 444 points.

Williams scored four centuries in his 5-4 defeat by Stephen Lee

4 – Centuries scored by Mark Williams (100, 113, 104 and 137) in his China Open match against Stephen Lee. He nonetheless lost 5-4.

17 – Despite Asamoah Gyan‘s 91st-minute equaliser for Ghana at Wembley, England remain unbeaten in all 17 games they have played against African opposition, winning 11 and drawing six.

9 – Goals scored by Holland against Hungary in the space of five days. They followed up a 4-0 win in Budapest with a 5-3 victory in Amsterdam.

1Germany were beaten 2-1 by Australia in a friendly in Mönchengladbach. It was the first time they have ever lost a match to a nation outside of Europe and South America.

150José Mourinho‘s record of 150 consecutive home games without defeat as a manager ended when Real Madrid were defeated 1-0 by Sporting Gijón. Before that, his previous home loss came in March 2002 (Porto 2 Beira 3).

3 – Defending Masters champion Phil Mickelson will go to Augusta in good form after winning the Houston Open by three shots.

The cricket World Cup in numbers

6New Zealand lost their semi-final to Sri Lanka by five wickets. It was the sixth time in ten World Cups they have reached the semi-finals, but have yet to win one.

4Sachin Tendulkar was dropped four times (on 27, 45, 70 and 81) before being finally dismissed for 85 as India beat Pakistan by 29 runs in their semi-final.

275 – Target set by Sri Lanka (who scored 274/6) in the final, which India successfully overhauled to make it the most successful run chase ever in a World Cup final.

Jayawardene scored an unbeaten century in the final

103 – In defeat, Sri Lanka’s Mahela Jayawardene scored an unbeaten 103 off just 88 balls.

500 – Sri Lanka’s Tillakaratne Dilshan finished as the tournament’s highest run-scorer, with 500 at an average of 62.50.

21 – Pakistan’s Shahid Afridi and India’s Zaheer Khan finished as the tournament’s leading bowlers with 21 each after Khan claimed the wickets of Upul Tharanga and Chamara Kapugedera in the final.

14 – New Zealand’s Ross Taylor hit 14 sixes, three more than any other player at the World Cup.

The Premier League in numbers

2 – Manchester United conceded two penalties in a Premier League match for the first time in their 4-2 win at West Ham. (Mark Noble converted both of them.)

Hernández has now scored five times as a sub

5 – United’s Javier Hernández scored his fifth league goal of the season as a substitute, more than any other player. (It was his 11th Premier League goal overall.)

4 Kevin Phillips hit Birmingham‘s joint-fastest goal of the season in the fourth minute, as they beat Bolton 2-1.  also scored in the fourth minute of the reverse fixture at Bolton back in August.

1 Everton were finally awarded their first penalty of the season (scored by Leighton Baines) in their 2-2 draw with Aston Villa. They were the last Premier League team to be given a penalty this season.

11 – Everton have now failed to win in their last 11 matches played on April 2nd. They last won on this date in 1938.

12 West Bromwich Albion‘s 2-1 win over Liverpool broke a run of 12 successive league defeats against the Anfield club.

8 Steven N’Zonzi was sent off during Blackburn‘s 0-0 draw at Arsenal. The Gunners have seen more opponents sent off (eight) in Premier League matches than any other club – and all have been straight reds.

5Manchester City had five different goalscorers (Adam Johnson, Carlos Tevez, David Silva, Patrick Vieira and Yaya Touré) as they thrashed Sunderland 5-0.

(Some statistics courtesy of Opta Sports, The Times@InfostradaLiveCricinfo and @StatManJon.)

The week in numbers: w/e 8/8/10

26 – Days between the World Cup final and the start of the Football League season, which kicked off with the Championship opener between Norwich and Watford on Friday evening. (Watford won 3-2.)

17 – All but five of the Championship’s 22 clubs have prior experience of playing in the Premier League.

3Scott Rendell has scored in his first league appearance in the last three seasons, for Peterborough, Torquay & now Wycombe.

Usan Bolt (image courtesy of José Goulão)

2Usain Bolt lost a 100 metres race for only the second time in his professional career after losing to Tyson Gay at Friday’s Diamond League meeting in Stockholm. Bolt’s only previous defeat came in the same stadium (to Asafa Powell) two years ago.

72Pakistan‘s first innings total in the second Test, their lowest score ever against England. It came less than a week after they set their previous low of 80 in the first Test.

54 – Pakistan’s number three batsman, Azhar Ali, spent a total of 54 minutes at the crease before being dismissed for a duck. It was the fifth-longest (in terms of time) run-less innings in Test history.

Graeme Swann

8Graeme Swann‘s second innings return of 6/60 (as at last night’s close) represents his best bowling performance in Tests, and is the eighth time he has taken at least five wickets in an innings in just his 22nd Test match.

180,000 – Weekly salary reportedly demanded by Inter Milan striker Mario Balotelli in transfer negotiations with Manchester City. Balotelli is 19 and has played just 59 games for Inter.

600 – The New York YankeesAlex Rodriguez hit his 600th career home run on Wednesday in a 5-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays, becoming the seventh player to do so in Major League Baseball history and, at 35 years and 8 days, the youngest to reach that landmark. It came on the three-year anniversary of his 500th home run.

15,133 – Total fines (in pounds) levied against the Dutch and Spanish Football Associations by FIFA for their players’ poor discipline in last month’s World Cup final. Spain received five yellow cards; Holland had eight players booked and defender John Heitinga was sent off.

10Fabio Capello‘s first post-World Cup England squad contained just 10 of the 23-man squad who played in South Africa.

18 Tiger Woods ended with a career-worst total of 18-over par at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio. He finished 30 shots behind winner Hunter Mahan.

And finally, two statistics to illustrate how you should always take pre-season results with a pinch of salt:

11 – Goals in Arsenal‘s final pre-season game at Legia Warsaw. The Gunners won 6-5, having been 3-0 down.

80% – Reigning Premier League champions Chelsea have lost four of their five preseason games, including yesterday’s 3-1 defeat to Manchester United in the Community Shield.

(Some statistics courtesy of @OptaJoe.)

World Cup final review: Spain deserving winners of a disappointing tournament

Of course, there is no reason that a World Cup final should be the best game of the tournament. Quite the opposite, in fact, with so much at stake. But all football fans hope for at least a good and fair match, one befitting of the showpiece game of the biggest event in world sport. For a variety of reasons history suggest we rarely get much of a spectacle. The right team – Spain – won on the night, but it was for long periods a grim match in keeping with a tournament which has disappointed far more often than it has thrilled.

Yellow is the colour, but Spain deserved to win

Goal-scorer Andrés Iniesta

In a game which featured as many bookings – Holland‘s John Heitinga sent off, twelve others cautioned – as it did genuine chances, Andrés Iniesta provided the decisive intervention four minutes from the end of extra time. Substitute Fernando Torres‘ cross was half-cleared to fellow sub Cesc Fabregas, who turned a neat ball directly into the path of Iniesta, who finished smartly with his right foot.

Although both sides had chances to clinch the game in the second half of normal time and in extra time, few neutrals would dispute that Spain were the more deserving winners. While never quite at their fluid, Euro 2008-winning best in this tournament, they have consistently sought to play good football combined with an obdurate defence and the ability to eke out wins in tight matches – they won all four knockout games 1-0.

The best tackle of the World Cup final?

This 2010 Holland side, on the other hand, is as workmanlike and physical as their 1974/1978 ‘Total Football’ forebears were skilful and elegant. Nigel de Jong and Mark van Bommel might on another night have seen red for challenges which scarred both the match itself and the recipient of the foul. And while I have nothing against a side looking to physically impose themselves within the rules of the game, what Holland sought to do to Spain last night did not make for an edifying spectacle, as they repeatedly tested both the laws of the game and referee Howard Webb‘s patience.

In fact, the best and cleanest tackle seen last night was probably the one made before kickoff, when a ‘fan’ ran onto the pitch towards the World Cup trophy itself, only to be collared at the last moment by a security guard. It was a great tackle: well-timed, controlled and he stayed on his feet …

Holland coach Bert van Marwijk heavily criticised Webb after the game, largely on the basis of missing what should clearly have been a Dutch corner in the build-up to the winning goal (although he did concede Spain had been the better side):

I don’t think the referee controlled the match well. Both sides committed fouls. That may be regrettable for a final. But the best team won the match.

Actually, Bert, from what I saw one team set out with a deliberate policy of roughing up the opposition to disrupt their rhythm, and the other team simply reacted in kind almost out of self-defence.

In reality, Webb did not make any bookings which weren’t thoroughly warranted, and on another day the game could easily have finished ten versus eight, with van Bommel, de Jong and Iniesta all somewhat fortunate not to see red. Arguably, an early sending off might have quelled a game which started out niggly and deteriorated further as it progressed, but this was one of those situations where a referee is damned if does (ruining the game by sending a player off) and damned if he doesn’t (too lenient, losing control).

But, as BBC commentator Jacqui Oatley so succinctly tweeted:

Holland slating Howard Webb is like having a go at a policeman who books you for speeding when he could’ve done you for drink driving.

And BBC pundit Lee Dixon added that,one way or another, justice had been done:

In the cold light of day we might find that Howard Webb has made a mistake in allowing the winning goal. But let’s be honest, the right team won and the best player on the pitch scored it. That’s got to be justice, hasn’t it?

Holland were unarguably the technically inferior side, and the brand of football they played throughout this tournament has been predominantly negative. Last night, Robin van Persie cut a lonely, frustrated figure up front, while Dirk Kuyt and top scorer Wesley Sneijder were peripheral figures. Only Arjen Robben made an impression, but he wasted Holland’s best chances of the game, and continued to frustrate with his histrionics.

Spain, despite benching Arsenal captain Fabregas and the clearly-injured Torres, were the better, deeper squad. It was somehow fitting that both these players, frustrated by their limited playing time at this World Cup, should combine to set up Iniesta’s winner. It was the one moment in the entire match where class was truly brought to bear.

A disappointing tournament

And so a largely disappointing World Cup has come to an end. South Africa have been good hosts, adding a splash of welcome colour – and a lot of less welcome noise! – to proceedings. Ticketing arrangements have been shambolic – and that’s before we even consider the Robbie Earle fiasco – with many games no more than two-thirds full. And while there was something to cheer in the triumph of new faces (Ghana, Slovakia) succeeding at the expense of some of the game’s traditional powers (Italy, France), it was a tournament where, as a rule, the bigger the game – and the higher the expectation – the worse it was, with Brazil versus Portugal being the most glaring and abject example.

Oh, and England were every bit as bad as we feared they might be. But that’s nothing new.

It has been a poor tournament for many of the mega-stars of the global game – Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Kaká, even Lionel Messi to a degree – and for attacking players in general, with just 31% of all shots being on target. Goalkeepers too will wake up screaming with nightmares after having had to face the unpredictable wobbling, dipping and swerving of the Jabulani ball. And we have had too many clear-cut incidents where the application of simple technology would have prevented miscarriages of justice (or, in the case of Frank Lampard‘s ghost goal, merely prolonged the agony).

The World Cup remains an amazing global gathering and a celebration of the most popular sport on the planet, and I still have high hopes for Brazil 2014. But to me the last month feels a little like FIFA organised the world’s biggest party, then forgot to bring any presents. A shame. A real shame.

The final in numbers:

0-0 – This was only the second World Cup final to finish goalless after 90 minutes (1994: Brazil beat Italy on penalties).

35.5% – Only 11 of 31 shots in the final were on target, reflecting the difficulties attacking players have faced from the combination of high altitude and the controversial Jabulani ball.

13 – Thirteen players were cautioned during the game – eight Dutchmen (including John Heitinga, who was sent off for a second yellow card) and five Spaniards.

4Holland have committed the most fouls in four of the last seven World Cups in which they have played, including 2010.

23 – Holland earned 23 yellow cards during the tournament, the joint-highest ever at a World Cup (Argentina, 1990).

1-0Spain won all four of their games in the knockout phase of the tournament with the only goal of the game. None of these four goals came in the first half of matches.

3 – Spain have become the third side to be champions of both Europe and the world (after West Germany and France).

8 – Number of goals scored by Spain, the lowest total ever by a World Cup winner.

1 – Spain are the first team to win the World Cup having lost their opening game …

1 – … And also the first European team to win the World Cup outside Europe.

44 – Spain became the first country to win the World Cup final while wearing their change strip since England in 1966.

54 – Although Spain’s Carlos Marchena did not play in the final, he has set a new world record during the tournament by going undefeated in his last 54 international appearances.

1Howard Webb is the first referee ever to take charge of a Champions League final and a World Cup final in the same year.

(Some statistics courtesy of @optajean, @optajoao, @optajoe and @castrolfootball.)

The week in numbers: w/e 11/7/10

792 – Test wickets taken by Sri Lanka spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, who announced his intention to retire from Test cricket after the first Test against India (which starts next Sunday). He needs eight more to reach 800 – expect him to bowl a lot.

Usan Bolt (image courtesy of José Goulão)

9.82 – The time clocked by Usain Bolt in the 100 metres in Lausanne on Thursday. It equals the fastest time in the world this year and only three other men (Tyson Gay, Asafa Powell and Maurice Greene) have ever run faster. For Bolt, though, it represented only his eighth-best time.

9.98 – The time clocked by Christophe Lemaître in winning the 100 metres at the French national championships. It is the first legal sub 10-second time recorded by a white athlete.

6Fabian Cancellara wore the yellow jersey at the Tour de France for six of the first seven days of the race. He has now worn the maillot jaune for a total of 21 days in his career, but has never come close to winning the overall race.

Mark Cavendish

12 – Sprinter Mark Cavendish won his 11th and 12th Tour de France stages. Of all the riders in this year’s race, only seven-time winner Lance Armstrong has more individual stage wins (22).

1Bangladesh‘s cricket team completed a five-run win in Saturday’s one-day international against England. It as their first win against England in 21 matches in all forms of the game.

1 – There was only one unbeaten teams at the 2010 World CupNew Zealand.

2 – Having never previously won a major tournament, Spain have now been champions in the last two they have participated in: Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup.

3Holland have lost all three World Cup finals in which they have played (1974, 1978, 2010).

World Cup semi-final review: Seven will become eight

So now we know that the 2010 World Cup final will be contested by Holland and Spain. As neither have previously won a World Cup, this means we will have a new winner – the eighth in all – of the Jules Rimet trophy, joining the elite group of Uruguay, Italy, Germany/West Germany, Brazil, England, Argentina and France.

Here is how the two teams reached the final.

Uruguay 2 Holland 3

Two second-half goals from Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben – the first carrying more than a whiff of controversy – helped put Holland into their first World Cup final for 32 years at the expense of a battling Uruguay on Tuesday night.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst

Hopefully the game will ultimately be best remembered for Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s opening goal. The Dutch captain – who is set to retire from football after this World Cup – put a memorable stamp on the tournament by advancing down the left flank and hammering an unstoppable 35-yard shot into the top corner of Fernando Muslera‘s net for what will surely be the goal of the tournament.

The goal should have been the signal for the opening of the floodgates. However, this remains a Holland side which, despite having won each of their 14 games so far in both the qualifying and finals tournaments, is the antithesis of past Dutch teams. Where sides containing the likes of Cruyff, van Basten, Gullit and Bergkamp would have played beautifully and somehow found a way to lose, Bert van Marwijk‘s squad have a knack of winning ugly. So, instead of being treated to ‘total football’, we were subjected to the Holland we have seen throughout this tournament: fitfully brilliant, more often pragmatic, sometimes just plain poor.

And so a Uruguay team missing the ability of the suspended Luis Suaraz to get into threatening positions inside the box gradually clawed their way back into the match. Diego Forlán‘s shot from the edge of the area swerved in flight but went straight at goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg, but he somehow contrived to flap at empty air as the ball went straight over him, allowing Uruguay to go in level after 45 minutes.

After half-time, the match sat precariously in the balance before Sneijder’s 70th-minute effort whizzed just past Robin van Persie and into the net. Van Persie was clearly in an active position, and replays suggested he was marginally offside. It was a tight call for which the officials should not be blamed, but it was also an incorrect decision. Nevertheless, the goal was allowed to stand. It was Sneijder’s fifth of the tournament, putting him level with David Villa as the tournament’s top goalscorer.

Still reeling from going behind, three minutes later Dirk Kuyt crossed for Robben to head home, and at 3-1 the game was as good as over. Uruguay managed an injury-time goal from Maxi Pereira, but despite some heart-stopping moments before the final whistle it was too little too late.

Uruguay can return home with their heads held high, but it will be the Oranje, for all the disappointment of their frequently disjointed play, who head to Johannesburg for Sunday’s final.

Key numbers

5Wesley Sneijder has now scored five goals from seven shots in open play during this tournament.

14 – Including the qualifying tournament, Holland now have 14 consecutive wins in this World Cup campaign, a new record.

2,200 – Holland’s final goal, scored by Arjen Robben, was the 2,200th goal in World Cup finals history.

1974 – The year of Uruguay‘s only previous World Cup meeting with Holland. Diego Forlán‘s father, Pablo, played in that game (won by Holland).

14 – Uruguay are now without a win in their last 14 World Cup games against European opposition (six draws, eight defeats).

1 – This was the first World Cup semi-final since 1986 to be won by more than a one-goal margin in normal time (Italy beat Germany 2-0 in 2006, but this was after extra time.)

2 – Holland remain one of only two unbeaten teams at the 2010 World Cup. The other is New Zealand.

22 – There have been 22 goals at Cape Town’s Green Point stadium, the most among this tournament’s ten stadia. Johannesburg’s Soccer City, which stages Sunday’s final, could still overtake Green Point – 20 goals have been scored here so far.

Spain 1 Germany 0

Although this game was far from being a classic, it was a shame one team had to lose an absorbing semi-final which see-sawed first one way and then the other.

The game unfolded much as expected during the first half, with Spain – starting without the out-of-form Fernando Torres – playing their intricate passing game and Germany largely content to defend and exploit opportunities on the counter-attack. Both sides occasionally threatened, but with little sustained menace. It wasn’t a great half of football, with a Torres-less Spain lacking a central focus up front, and Germany struggling to get Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski involved.

Carles Puyol

The second half started more brightly, with Spain enjoying an early period of dominance before the game settled into a pattern where first one team would dominate for a few minutes, then the other. But if the pattern of the game had become fairly predictable, the scorer of the all-important goal on 73 minutes was not. Xavi swept in a corner from the left, and a charging Carles Puyol leapt high to power a thunderous header past the helpless Manuel Neuer from 12 yards. A team which prides itself on playing the most beautiful modern football had produced a proper old-school goal.

Germany pressed forward and kept trying all the way to the end, leaving gaping holes at the back as they threw caution to the wind. Remarkably, Spain failed to capitalise on several chances to make the game safe, not least when Pedro squandered a two-on-one situation by selfishly keeping the ball to himself instead of squaring it to unmarked substitute Torres.

But no matter. 1-0 was ultimately enough, and Vicente del Bosque‘s side were deserving winners, having been on top for long spells during the game and created the bulk of the goal-scoring chances. They will now have the opportunity to add the World Cup to their 2008 European Championship win in Sunday’s final at Soccer City.

Key numbers

7 – Number of Barcelona players in Spain‘s starting line-up (Carles Puyol, Gerard Piqué, Sergio Busquets, Xavi, Andrés Iniesta, Pedro and David Villa).

26:52 – Time of the game’s first foul, when Sergio Ramos brought down Lukas Podolski.

4 – For the fourth time in a row, a World Cup semi-final involving Germany was scoreless at half-time. They went on to win in 1990 and 2002, but lost in 2006 and last night.

1 – In his 13th World Cup appearance, Spain’s Carles Puyol scored with his first-ever attempt in target.

1 – This was Germany’s first defeat in four World Cup meetings with Spain (previously two wins, one draw).

22 – Every member of both starting elevens plays for a club in their country’s domestic league.

0 – Puyol’s goal ensured that, after 19 tournaments, no World Cup semi-final has ever finished 0-0.

(Statistics courtesy of FIFA statistics, @optajoe and @StatManJohn.)

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