After a colourful and exciting first round of 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup matches that featured a flurry of goals, it is perhaps no surprise to see a couple of forwards at the top of the Castrol Index.
Almost half of the 16 goals seen so far in Brazil came in the one match – Nigeria’s 6-1 win over tournament newcomers Tahiti – and the hat-trick scored by Nnamdi Oduamadi in Belo Horizonte has made him the Index’s early frontrunner.
What was impressive about Oduamadi’s contribution was his finishing accuracy. While Nigeria’s six goals came from 17 shots, the 22-year-old – who spent last season in Italy’s Serie B with Varese – scored with three from four. In fact he had just three goal attempts inside the Pacific Islanders’ penalty box but was in the right place to put the ball in the net on each occasion.
While Oduamadi’s treble earned him 9.55 points, Italy’s Mario Balotelli took 9.38 for his lively performance against Mexico, capped by the winning goal with 12 minutes remaining. Balotelli was a central figure throughout Sunday’s entertaining contest, offering an early statement of intent with a shot just over the crossbar and two more straight at goalkeeper Jose Corona. Indeed he had seven shots in total and his persistence paid off near the end when he powered through the Mexico defence and struck the winner with a fierce low drive.
It was reward for a display that excited the Maracana crowd, and not only because of the AC Milan striker’s shooting. A foul on him led to Andrea Pirlo’s typically exquisite free-kick which opened the scoring and he was a thorn in the side of the Mexico defence throughout.
Somebody who had a less fraught assignment than the Mexico centre-backs was Nigeria’s Uwa Echiejile, who sits third in the Index compliled by the Castrol Performance Analysts with a score of 9.35 – making him the top-ranked defender.
The Super Eagles’ No3 was heavily involved in his team’s play, scoring against Tahiti and ranking fourth in this initial round for the number of passes made with 112. The fact that the top four in that category were all Nigerian shows how much of the ball the West Africans saw against Tahiti.
Another team who enjoyed plenty of possession in their opening fixture were Spain against Uruguay, and Gerard Pique’s assured display at the back in the European champions’ 2-1 success put him fourth in the Index with 9.03 – the fourth and last player to have passed the nine-point mark so far.
From 51 passes attempted, the Barcelona central defender faltered only twice, earning a completion rate of 96 per cent. That only his defensive partner Sergio Ramos surpassed that rate (98 per cent) underlines how well Spain move, and keep, the ball at the back as they build their attacks. Additionally, Pique was the top defender for recovered balls (12), with Echiejile fourth (10); the men in between were Uruguay’s Maximiliano Pereira and Japan’s Maya Yoshida.
Looking at the overall picture following the first group games, Spain are the country with most players in the top ten, with Andres Iniestia (8.71/8th) and Sergio Busquets (8.63/9th) also featuring alongside Pique. And though the top two in in the Index were forwards, there are five defenders in total in the top ten: besides Echiejile and Pique, full-back Marcelo (8.87/5th) and goalkeeper Julio Cesar (8.61/10th) feature for Brazil and centre-back Diego Lugano (8.75/7th) for Uruguay.
The highest-ranked midfielder, finally, is Italy’s Riccardo Montolivo (8.83/6th), whose eight solo runs against Mexico was a tally surpassed only by the Brazilians Oscar and Neymar. And that, as the home fans at this tournament will vouch, is not bad company to keep.
*FIFA.com will be publishing the latest Castrol Index after every round of matches at this FIFA Confederations Cup. In the meantime, you can read more statistical analysis and delve deeper into this unique ranking system by clicking on any of the 'Castrol Index' links.