Alba hits top as De Rossi, Pique fly high
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World and European champions Spain may be feted for the quality of their tiki-taka passing football, but after a tough semi-final against Italy, the Castrol Index underlines the extent to which they owe their place in Sunday’s FIFA Confederations Cup Final to their defenders.

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Vicente del Bosque’s men were on the back foot for significant spells of Thursday’s goalless contest with Italy in Fortaleza, and after they eventually prevailed 7-6 on penalties, it was no surprise to see their defensive players rewarded with high individual scores.

Gerard Pique – the highest-scoring Spain player on the night (9.53), followed by goalkeeper Iker Casillas (9.28) – climbed 13 places to fifth after an eye-catching display that featured a crucial block from Claudio Marchisio. The Barcelona centre-back defied tired legs to get forward and nearly conclude a Spanish counter-attack with a shot over in the second half, and also converted a nerveless spot-kick in the shootout.

This means there are now three Spain defenders in the top five of the Index, with Jordi Alba and Sergio Ramos occupying the top two positions. Left-back Alba’s 9.07 score against Italy ensured he jumped from third place to first, dropping his team-mate Sergio Ramos to second.

The Spain defence has conceded just one goal – against Uruguay in their first fixture – in 390 minutes’ play in Brazil, and Ramos and Alba, in particular, have scored highly across several categories. Ramos is the player with most recovered balls (31) and also the outfield player with most clearances (nine). Alba is joint-third in the latter category (five), and has the additional value of an attacking game that has yielded nine solo runs on top of his two goals against Nigeria. The Barcelona player’s Index average was marked down after the group stage because he did not play in every game (missing the second Group B fixture with Tahiti) but that penalty no longer applies.

De Rossi makes huge leap, Fred stays in contention
The third player in the Index after the semi-finals, meanwhile, is Italy’s Daniele De Rossi, whose powerful display for Gli Azzurri earned him the highest score of any player from this round of matches (9.69). It is a significant climb by the Roma midfielder, who was previously 33rd. De Rossi might have scored even more highly too had he found the net with either the glancing header or powerful shot with which he threatened Casillas’s goal in the first half.

It is interesting to note that De Rossi and his imposing team-mate Giorgio Chiellini – who was the second-ranked Italy player against Spain (9.57) – have made more tackles than any other players at this FIFA Confederations Cup: De Rossi six and defender Chiellini eight.

Finally, Fred remains the highest-ranked home player in the Castrol Index in fourth place, after scoring for the third time this tournament with Brazil’s first goal in the 2-1 semi-final success over Uruguay. Match-winner Paulinho was A Seleção’s highest points scorer (9.18) on Wednesday but Fred, despite dropping two places, still appears the best hope of a Brazilian stopping a Spanish one-two at the Index summit on Sunday.

The full top ten with one game left to play is as follows:
Jordi Alba (Spain, 9.57), Sergio Ramos (Spain, 9.47), Daniele De Rossi (Italy, 9.38), Fred (Brazil, 9.30), Gerard Pique (Spain, 9.23), Marcelo (Brazil, 9.16), David Luiz (Brazil, 9.09), Andres Iniesta (Spain, 9.03), Diego Lugano (Uruguay, 8.98), Thiago Silva (Brazil, 8.92). 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.