Castrol Index: Torres on top
The old adage that first impressions count has rung true here at the FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009, where Fernando Torres has fired himself straight to the top of the Castrol Index after the opening round of matches. A newcomer to the 'Festival of Champions', the Spain striker's manner of introduction was to score three exceptional goals in an 11-minute period: the quickest hat-trick in the history of his national team and this illustrious tournament.
It was a remarkable achievement, and one reflected in El Niño's ranking in the Castrol Index, an innovative system that uses the latest technology to objectively analyse and rank player performance by tracking and assessing every move during a match. Even Torres's closest challenger, Giuseppe Rossi, could not compete. Despite turning Italy's match with USA in Gli Azzurri's favour with a brilliantly-executed brace, the Villarreal star still lagged some distance behind a player assessed by Castrol to have produced 50 per cent more in terms of goals and scoring opportunities.
One man not surprised to see Torres leading from the front is Castrol Ambassador Alan Shearer. "On form, he's in the top two or three strikers in the world for me," enthused the England legend. "He's got skill and bags of pace and reads the game brilliantly. He would be my tip for player of the tournament."
The Liverpool striker may well emerge as the star of South Africa 2009, but if the opening four games have proved anything, it is that he will not be short on rivals. Rossi's impact as a substitute, for example - scoring two goals and going close to grabbing a couple more - has marked him out as one of the tournament's early sensations.
Although his goal tally is no better than those of Kaka and Mohamed Zidan, the young Italy striker was found to have made a greater overall impact, producing around a third more goalscoring chances than the clinical Egyptian. In the Castrol Index, the quality of players' shots and goals, and the distance from which they are taken, is also taken into account.
Many more of the expected candidates feature in the top 20, with Kaka, Zidan, David Villa, Michael Bradley and Luis Fabiano among those rewarded for performances that auger well for the remainder of the competition. But there are just as many surprises. Few would have expected, for example, that Sibonsio Gaxa and Basem Abbas would find themselves ahead of Kaka in the running at this stage. Yet although their contributions were more understated than that of Brazil's graceful No10, it was found by Castrol Performance Analysts that the influence exerted by this unheralded pair was no less important to their respective teams.
Gaxa's exceptional positioning was what took him on to the podium at this early stage, with the South African responsible for a mammoth 30 per cent of his team's defensive interventions in the 0-0 draw with Iraq. While the Mamelodi Sundowns player played a huge part in restricting Iraq to a solitary effort on goal, Abbas earned his place by making some crucial blocks at the other end, without which it was calculated that the hosts would have enjoyed a 60 per cent chance of scoring.
FIFA.com will be publishing the latest Castrol Index after every round of matches here at South Africa 2009, and in the meantime you can read loads more in the way of facts, insights and analysis by visiting our new and improved Statistics section.
To view the full Castrol Index table, click on the link to the right.