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Football - 21. January 2008.

International matches in 2007: women's football still at peak

The year 2007 brought three continental championships and 929 international matches in the men's game, with 443 women's matches (including the Women's World Cup) almost setting a new record. FIFA's annual analysis of the international year that has just come to a close reveals a whole host of interesting facts and figures.

The 929 matches represent the fourth-highest total in the history of the men's game, as only 2000, 2001 and 2004 saw more international football. Interestingly, 2007 set a new record for the number of matches in a post-FIFA World Cup™ year. It is certainly conceivable that just like in 2000 and 2004, the Olympic year of 2008 will also see the 1,000 mark breached and possibly another new record.

Rather more unsurprisingly, when the 929 matches are broken down by confederation, the three biggest confederations (UEFA, CAF and the AFC) all claim a share of at least 20 per cent. One in every seven matches was of an intercontinental nature and Oceania also made a statistical comeback in this category with nearly 30 intercontinental games (three per cent), having not played a single match against opposition from another confederation in the whole of 2006.

Top spot in the list of countries that played the most in 2007 is claimed once again by Saudi Arabia (22 matches), followed closely by Mexico and the United Arab Emirates on 21 games apiece. Brazil (18 games) are the only team from the top ten of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking to appear in the upper reaches of this category, which is dominated by Asian and South American teams. A total of 190 teams (four more than in 2006) played at least one game and the only debutants were Montenegro, who were highly impressive in their first five matches. Although the average number of matches per team (9.8) was considerably higher than in 2006 (8.6), it was still significantly lower than the all-time record figure of 11.6, set in 2004.

The year 2007 will also be remembered for various feats by leading teams and outsiders alike. The USA, for example, won seven consecutive matches en route to Gold Cup glory, whereas the illustrious trio of Portugal, Brazil and Spain all posted 12-match unbeaten runs. Costa Rica, meanwhile, drew six successive matches and kept a clean sheet against both France and Côte d'Ivoire. Both Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan enjoyed spectacular runs in which they scored at least one goal in 13 consecutive matches. The most valuable match in terms of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, however, was the clash of the titans between Brazil and Argentina in the final of the Copa America.

2007 will also be remembered as a vintage year for women's football with the total of 443 matches and 130 active teams coming close to equalling the record year of 2006 (448 matches, 134 teams). The fact that there were 130 teams active in 2007 is all the more remarkable given that prior to 2006, there had never been more than 100 teams playing at least one match in a calendar year. As in 2006, China PR were the most active with 33 matches, 12 of which finished in defeat for the Asians. Second place was claimed by the USA on 24 matches, three more than the German world champions. Although the teams played an average of 6.8 matches in 2007, there are still varying standards and levels in women's football, as evidenced by the fact that only 50 of the 130 teams played seven or more international matches, leaving the majority of associations below the average.

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