With the superstar strikers of the global game clearly deciding to keep their powder dry in the first round of matches at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, it's no surprise that defenders and goalkeepers have seized the invitation to make the early running in the Castrol Index. None were more impressive than Gabriel Heinze, who has gone straight to the top of the rankings after an outstanding performance for Argentina as they launched their challenge for a third crown with a winning start against Nigeria.
Apart from his wholehearted endeavours, the Marseille player is well known for his versatility and in Group B's opening fixture he demonstrated that in abundance with some solid interventions at the back combined with the bullet-like header that bagged all three points for La Albiceleste.
But that wasn't all in Heinze's day's work, as is reflected in the Castrol Index, an innovative system which uses the latest technology to objectively analyse and rank player performances and is being used at the FIFA World Cup for the first time. El Gringo also caught the eye with his accurate distribution, 52 passes made with a success rate of 77 per cent - a higher percentage than even Juan Veron, Diego Maradona's talented playmaker.
South American solidity
Heinze had some fierce competition for the number one slot, with other defenders coming to the fore, most notably three fellow South Americans. Paraguay's Antolin Alcaraz was another player to venture forward from the back and strike a vital goal, in his case the opener in their 1-1 draw with Italy. For Chile, Waldo Ponce made an immediate impact, as did Gary Medel, who at 22 is fast becoming one of his continent's most highly-rated players. In the Castrol Index, both stood out in a central defensive display that shut the door on Honduras' hopes on Wednesday while both also managed to test the Central Americans' goalkeeper Noel Valladares.
Two of Valladares' fellow-keepers made it into the top ten, with Germany's Manuel Neuer earning recognition while those further foward hogged the headlines following the 4-0 defeat of Australia. Castrol Performance Analysts found that his his two close range saves were just as vital to the Germans' cause as the goals of Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski.
Korea Republic's last line, Jung Sung Ryong, also scored heavily, and with defender Lee Jung Soo and Park Ji Sung - captain, star midfielder and scorer of their second goal in a 2-0 win over Greece - he made up a triumvirate of team-mates who find themselves in the list of leading ten performers.
Kuyt flying forwards' flag
Only one forward made it into the top 12 - the Netherlands' Dirk Kuyt, who scored their second goal in the 2-0 defeat of Denmark. Typically, the Liverpool player scored highly for his industry and for a total of three shots on target.
The players who were expected to dominate the action in South Africa have generally made a quiet start to the tournament, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney leaving their legions of admirers slightly underwhelmed. Rest assured though that their time will come in this tournament. Lionel Messi's performance was found by Castrol Performance Analysts to be a notch or two higher, and eight shots on target - six from inside the penalty area and a 77 per cent completion rate from 84 passes - show his determination to dominate the biggest stage of all.
FIFA.com will be publishing the latest Castrol Index after every round of matches here at South Africa 2010, and in the meantime you can read more statistical analysis and delve deeper into this unique ranking system by following the links on the right.