South American sides have turned 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ into a demonstration of their own particular talents with the most impressive team performances up to now and all underlined by the dominance of their individual players in the Castrol Index. However Europe has begun to erode some of the ground claimed by the CONMEBOL nations early on and that is perfectly illustrated by the presence of Spain's two fullbacks at the head of the latest ratings.
Joan Capdevila has blossomed since joining Villarreal in 2007 and he was a mainstay of the team that lifted the UEFA EURO crown two years ago. In South Africa he has performed impressively in a team that has worked overtime to put the disappointment of their opening-game defeat by Switzerland to bed and deliver three much-improved subsequent performances in which they have conceded just one goal - to Chile - while marching on towards a last eight duel with Paraguay.
Often deployed as a left-midfielder earlier in his career, Capdevila's ability to attack effectively and send over accurate crosses has also helped him to score highly in the Castrol Iindex, an innovative system which uses the latest technology to objectively analyse and rank player performances and which is being used at the FIFA World Cup for the first time.
Sergio Ramos is just as adventurous down the right, and La Roja's two raiding full-backs have had a large say in Spain's supremacy - by some distance - as the team delivering most crosses in the tournament. A total of 106 crosses were executed in their four games, which was 28 more than their closest rivals in that category, Germany. Spanish defenders have only conceded nine shots on target and two goals in four games, while Capdevila (81%) and Ramos (79%) also have above-average passing success rates for defenders.
Defenders fill the first five Castrol Index positions with the long-time leaders, Chile duo Gary Medel and Waldo Ponce, losing their pre-eminent positions after suspension ruled both out of their Round of 16 defeat to Brazil. However they have not been the only South American defenders to enhance that continent's fine reputation, with Paraguay's Antolin Alcaraz in third place and Argentina's Martin Demichelis fifth.
Alcaraz's ratings in each game have been high and remarkably consistent and he scored well again on Tuesday as Paraguay squeezed past Japan via a penalty shoot-out to earn a place in the quarter-finals, the first time they have advanced so far at a FIFA World Cup. The 27-year-old has made the fourth most clearances (10) of those players still in the competition.
Dividing the two CONMEBOL representatives is Philipp Lahm, who has demonstrated with a series of influential displays just why Germany coach Joachim Low turned to the Bayern Munich defender for his new captain when Michael Ballack dropped out through injury. Both Lahm and Demichelis are defenders who contribute in attack as well and their passing success rates (Lahm 82% and Demichelis 86%) are above-average for players at the back.
Gerrard on the move
Steven Gerrard and Juan also made big moves to put themselves in the top seven positions. Juan scored Brazil's opening goal against Chile on Monday while playing a full part in helping keep a clean sheet at the other end - Brazil's second in successive games. Like Uruguay, Brazil have only allowed opponents 12 shots on target.
England have had a campaign to forget but in Gerrard they had a player who need not reproach himself for their disappointing demise. He scored highly in Sunday's defeat by Germany, with Castrol Performance Analysts noting the crucial block he made on Miroslav Klose with the score at 2-1. In an attacking sense he was also influential and had a total of six shots in the game as he tried to haul England back into contention.
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 more statistical analysis and delve deeper into this unique ranking system by following the links on the right.
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