With the group stage of the FIFA Confederations Cup now behind us, it is no surprise to see a cluster of players from Brazil and Spain in the top ten of the Castrol Index. What may raise an eyebrow is that amid the flood of goals witnessed so far, a player yet to find the net, Sergio Ramos, leads the way.
Group B winners Spain scored 15 goals in their three matches, yet the Real Madrid centre-back underlines that is it not just Vicente del Bosque’s attackers enjoying themselves in Brazil. Ramos, who finished top of the Castrol Index at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, has played as big a part as anybody in ensuring La Roja’s defence has been breached only once in Brazil, recovering more balls (18) than any of his team-mates and also doing his bit to construct their attacks from the back, with a 94 per cent success rate with his passes.
Spain’s ability to keep hold of the ball, and starve rivals of possession, is well documented and means their three opponents were limited to a combined total of ten shots on target in 270 minutes of play. In Sunday’s 3-0 win over Nigeria, the world and European champions did ride their luck once or twice yet Ramos was as involved as ever, making three blocks in his own penalty box and having two shots on target in the other.
The Spain player with the highest individual score against Nigeria, though, was Jordi Alba with 9.69 – and little wonder after the left-back’s two goals. Alba showed his incredible energy levels by racing clear with two minutes left to complete a victory he had begun when scoring an even more impressive opening goal three minutes after the kick-off.
The Barcelona player, whose efforts have lifted him to third in the Index, capped a typically geometric passing move by collecting a ball from Andres Iniesta and running straight at the Nigeria defence, leaving three white shirts in his wake. He got a lucky bounce before beating Vincent Enyeama with a precise low finish, but he surely deserved it for the quality of his, and Spain’s, football. Alba, who was also involved in the move for Fernando Torres’s goal, has scored from each of his goal attempts in this tournament.
Brazilians rack up points
It was an equally productive weekend for Brazil striker Fred, who also scored twice – and actually earned a fractionally higher Index rating than Alba in the process (9.70) for his double against Italy. Fred’s efforts lifted him to second place, and if Neymar’s spectacular free-kick stole the headlines, the Fluminense player’s two second-half strikes made sure of a home victory in a compelling contest in Salvador.
It was Fred’s saved header that led to Dante’s deadlock-breaker, but he really caught the eye when blasting Brazil’s third goal, showing great strength to hold off Giorgio Chiellini before beating Gianluigi Buffon at his near post. His late second goal was more straightforward but capped Brazil’s third straight victory and, with it, top spot in Group A. Fred now has two goals from five attempts, four of them on target.
One striker who did not score in Salvador was Mario Balotelli, but the Italian remains fourth in the Index after another lively display, which featured a fine flick-on for Emanuele Giaccherini’s goal. Balotelli has had more goal attempts (14) than any other player and is level with Fernando Torres for most shots on target (eight). Unlike the Spaniard, whose attempts have all come inside the penalty area, half of Balotelli’s attempts have come from outside, and when you factor in his nine solo runs, it is evident his involvement goes way beyond the opposition box.
As for Torres, he remains the leading scorer, his header against Nigeria lifting him on to five goals from just two outings, and he is seventh in the Index. The full top ten after the group stage is: Sergio Ramos (Spain, 9.57), Fred (Brazil, 9.47), Jordi Alba (Spain, 9.38), Mario Balotelli (Italy, 9.30), Diego Lugano (Uruguay, 9.23), David Villa (Spain, 9.16), Fernando Torres (Spain, 9.09), Marcelo (Brazil, 9.03), David Luiz (Brazil, 8.98) and Thiago Silva (Brazil, 8.92).
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 the Castrol Index links at the top of this page.