What is football's biggest David v Goliath population victory?

Plus: golden oldie top scorers, Zs in names and a Derby County curiosity. Mail us or tweet @TheKnowledge_GU

“Curaçao beat India 3-1 in the King’s Cup last week,” notes Bas van Eldonk. “Curaçao has a population of 162,000 v India’s 1.367 billion, which means there is one person in Curaçao for every 8,438 in India. Let’s call this ratio (1:8438) the David/Goliath number. Has there even been a victory in men’s international football with a higher D/G number?”

In Fifa rankings terms, Curaçao’s victory over India wasn’t a shock at all: it was the 82nd best team in the world beating the 101st. But in population terms, it was seismic stuff. India is the second most populous country in the world, Curaçao the 192nd.

We haven’t been able to find any examples of a smaller country beating India, although Guam came close. They beat India in 2015, at a time when their population was 161,797. But India’s population was slightly smaller back then (1.309 billion), so the David/Goliath ratio was a mere 1:8091.

The country with the world’s biggest population, China, has lost many football matches, but none to a country the size of Curaçao or Guam. We think the smallest nation to beat them is Iceland in 2017, a match which had a David/Goliath ratio of 1:4037.

China and India are so far ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to population that there is no chance of finding the highest D/G ratio against any other opponent. But Bermuda gave it a good go when they beat the USA in 1991. At the time Bermuda had a population of 59,021 to the USA’s 253 million, which meant there was one living Bermudan for every 4,286 living Americans.

There are a few other unlikely victories of note.

  • 1:489 In 2003, the Maldives (302,209) beat Pakistan (147.7m)

  • 1:539 In 1981, Liechtenstein (population at the time: 26,224) beat Malaysia (14.1 million)

  • 1:573 In 1989, the Faroe Islands (47,766) beat Canada (27.4m)

We thought we’d found a cracker from 1982, when Liechtenstein (26,130) beat China (1.009 billion) by a score of 2-0 in Vaduz. That’s a ludicrous D/G ratio of 1:38,614. Alas, we were denied by (VA)RSSSF, which confirmed it was an unofficial match against a Beijing XI.

Despite pulling an all-nighter to leaf through population data and historical football results, we haven’t been able to find an upset as big as Curaçao’s win over India. If you do know of one, email knowledge@theguardian.com.

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Golden oldie top scorers

“Fabio Quagliarella was Serie A’s top scorer at 36. Has a major European league had an older top scorer?” asks George Jones.

Turns out that we don’t even have to switch leagues to find an older scorer topping the charts. “Luca Toni shared the Capocannoniere with Mauro Icardi in the 2014-15 Serie A season at the age of 38,” writes Cameron Kellington. He collected 22 goals for Verona to land his second Serie A top scorer award, nine years after his first (for Fiorentina in 2005-06 when he scored 31 goals to claim the European Golden Boot).

Luca Toni
Luca Toni scores another goal for Verona on his way to sharing the Capocannoniere with Mauro Icardi in 2014-15. Photograph: Venezia Filippo/EPA

ZZZZZZZZs in names

“In the Europa League final, eight players featured who had the letter Z in their name. Has there been a game with more?” asks Sam Hughes.

Adrian Armstrong takes us into eastern Europe to go one better than Chelsea v Arsenal. “Polish football is, unsurprisingly, fertile ground for Zs in players’, and others’, names. The starting line-ups in the Polish Cup final of 2010 included nine players whose names contained Z or Ź: Janukiewicz, Hrymowicz, Woźniak, Mandrysz, Pietruszka, Moskalewicz, Gikiewicz, Lewczuk, and Grzyb. The managers were Mandrysz and Probierz. The game was played in Bydgoszcz, at the Zdzisław Krzyszkowiak Stadium. The runners-up were Pogoń Szczecin. Sadly for zetaphiles, the winners were Jagiellonia Białystok with a goal by Andrius Skerla.”

But Alberto Lalouf thinks he can beat the nine Zs offered up by Poland with this example from Liga MX on 5 May in a match between Atlas and Monterrey. “Atlas started with O González, Hernández, Martínez, and Torres Ramírez, while for Monterrey came Reséndiz, J González, Gutiérrez, Meza, Sánchez, Vasquez and Zaldivar, thus, 11 Zs; though this is back down to nine if you choose to remove those who bear the Z at their second-last name (as you may know, it’s their maternal last name, being a common usage in Spain and some latin American countries). Later in the match, Govea Solorzano replaced Santamaria (Atlas), being the 12th (if we agreed to count the second-last names).”

First in, last out

Lars Husum has been in touch to offer up this curiosity. “During the 2018-19 season, Derby County became the first club ever in the history of the Football League (and the Premier League) to play in the only match of the first day of the season (winning 2-1 at Reading on 3 August 2018) and also to play in the only match of the last day of the season (losing 2-1 to Aston Villa in the Championship play-off final on 27 May 2019).”

Derby fans
Derby’s season did not have the fairytale ending their fans hoped for, as they lost 2-1 to Aston Villa in the play-off final. Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Knowledge archive

“Having been taken off on a tangent by Wikipedia, I arrived at the page of Guy Roux,” wrote Eamonn Kelly in 2014. “I saw that Roux had resigned from Lens during a 2-1 loss to Strasbourg. Upon further investigation I discovered he actually resigned after the game but my interest in the subject was piqued and hence my question: have any managers resigned during a game? (Rather than been fired, which we had covered before – Knowledge Ed)”

Here was Michael Gahler with a tale from Switzerland: “Back in 2006 Nestor Clausen, coach of then Swiss league leaders FC Sion and former World Cup Winner in 1986 with Argentina, resigned at half-time during a cup tie with the team 1-0 down,” he wrote. “Funnily enough Sion still managed to win that game 3-1 thanks to a second-half hat-trick from Sanel Kuljic.” For more on Christian Constantin’s colourful spell in charge of Sion, there’s a fine piece to be found in When Saturday Comes.

Can you help?

“There are some spectacular international cap stats at the Women’s World Cup,” writes Daniel Smalls. “But what is the most caps won by a starting XI in women’s international football?”

“What is the shortest distance a cup-winning captain has had to travel from his place of birth to where he received the cup?” asks Kevin Gilvary.

“In the current U-20 World Cup, Erling Braut Håland from Norway scored nine goals. None of the other 23 teams reached that total in the group stage. Have there been other tournaments where one player outscores all the other teams in the group stage? And also been elminated?” asks Pablo Miguez [Oleg Salenko scored as many as any other team in 1994 World Cup groups – Knowledge Ed].

Email your questions and answers to knowledge@theguardian.com or tweet @TheKnowledge_GU.