Ramos crowned as La Roja conquer
© AFP

This has been a FIFA World Cup™ of firsts: the first on African soil, the first won by Spain and also the first to be assessed second-by-second using the Castrol Index. This innovative system has utilised advanced technology to objectively analyse and evaluate every single player movement, and tonight it crowned its very own FIFA World Cup king.

Its verdict? That Sergio Ramos, Spain’s daring and energetic right-back, has been the most influential and effective player on show over the past month. The Real Madrid star, an ever-present in the top 20 since the second round of group matches, went into the Final in pole position and retained his place in style. Indeed, Ramos emerged as the Castrol Performance Analysts’ man of the match, pipping team-mates Joan Capdevila, Iker Casillas and Andres Iniesta with a score of 9.64 that reflected his efforts at both ends of the field.

A couple of efforts on Maarten Stekelenburg’s goal reminded everyone of his attacking capabilities, but it is at the back – where the world and European champions restricted the Netherlands to precious few opportunities – that the Spain No15 and his team-mates once again excelled. Indeed, with Vicente Del Bosque’s side having conquered the world on the back of four straight clean sheets during the knockout stage, and just two goals conceded overall, it is no wonder that Ramos’s main challenge for the Index title came from his own defensive colleagues.

Sneijder the midfield master
La Roja, who scored just eight goals en route to the title – the fewest of any world champions in history – were heavily indebted to a back four in which Joan Capdevila, Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique also excelled. In fact, only Philipp Lahm prevented this Spanish quartet taking places one, two, three and four in the Index, with Pique the man to drop into fifth due to his comparative lack of attacking involvement.

With David Villa – who leaves South Africa ranked by Castrol as the tournament’s leading striker - also recognised for his early heroics, Spain had kicked off at Soccer City with five players in the Castrol Index top ten to the Netherlands’ one. However, that sole Dutch representative, Wesley Sneijder, cemented his position with another stylish showing in the Final. Once again, the Inter Milan star was adjudged to be the Oranje’s top performer, and heads for home with the consolation of knowing that Castrol’s analysis has deemed him to be the tournament’s top midfielder.

Of course, the Final wasn’t the only match to influence the concluding Castrol Index of South Africa 2010. There was, after all, the small matter of that thrilling play-off for third place between Germany and Uruguay, a match that involved a clutch of potential contenders. Conspicuous by their absence, however, were two of the Index’s erstwhile leading lights: Philipp Lahm, the list’s one time leader, and Manuel Neuer, its top goalkeeper.

Nevertheless, while Lahm’s illness-enforced absence denied him the opportunity to return to the summit, he remained Germany’s highest-ranked player at fourth, while Neuer retained his pre-eminent position at the top of the goalkeeping list despite a late challenge from Casillas. The German duo were even able to gain ground in the Index as they ended the tournament with a superior average score to some of those involved in the last two fixtures.

Suarez outshines Forlan
Although an impressive showing in the third-place play-off was naturally not weighted as highly as a starring role in the Final, others also climbed, with adidas Golden Boot and Golden Ball winners Thomas Muller and Diego Forlan making major gains to enter the top ten and top 50 respectively.

Forlan would have considerably higher but for a poor pass completion rate, with the Uruguay star ranking 61st out of 71 forwards who attempted more than 50 passes. Attacking colleague Luis Suarez ultimately outranked him with an eighth-place finish, while credit should also go to Ghana’s John Pantsil and Paulo da Silva of Paraguay, both of whom finished in the top 20 despite exiting at the quarter-final stage.

There could only be one winner, however, and it was Ramos who took the inaugural honours, completing a fairy tale couple of years for both him and his trophy-laden team.