The Castrol Index, 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, has thrown up some interesting ratings and provoked much debate. Here we produce a summary of users' comments based on the matches up to the Round of 16, together with the explanations from the experts.
Q: Lionel Messi had not found the net before the quarter-final but still had a higher ranking than Robert Vittek, who had scored four and was joint-leading scorer, and Luis Suarez, who had managed three. How has Messi obtained his high marks?
Castrol Performance Analysts: Messi is a very interesting example of how the Castrol Index works, and how it depends on what typically happens or what 'should have happened' in a match, as well as what did happen. Strikers gain points through shooting and lose points through wasting possession and bad passing. Vittek and Suarez are good examples of that. Among forwards with more than 100 passes, Messi ranks third in terms of accuracy while Vittek is bottom and Suarez third bottom.
With shooting, each shot is measured in terms of how many goals you would get from that shot on average, and whether it forced a save, or was a goal. Messi's high number of shots would have resulted in at least one goal on average, and sometimes two. He had 11 shots on target, with Suarez nine and Vittek only six. Vittek's six earned more points than Messi's 11, but only by 18 per cent.
Vittek and Suarez have added over two goals' worth of shots each but each of them also gave up a lot of goal-scoring potential through losing the ball. Overall they were rated reasonably highly, though. Despite not scoring, Messi added nearly as much value through shots and, more importantly, did not cost his team scoring opportunities through losing possession.
Q: Most England fans would say that Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard both had a poor tournament yet they are first and fourth in the midfielders' ranking ahead of Landon Donovan, who scored three, and Wesley Sneijder, who scored two. Why don't midfielders' goals count for more?
Castrol: The positional aspect of the Castrol Index comes into play when looking at goals – one of Donovan's was a penalty, which gains players only a small reward. Sneijder's goal against Japan was a long-range effort that generated only a modest reward, since it was judged that it came about because of poor goalkeeping rather than an excellent strike.
Both Gerrard and Lampard had seven shots on target – equal second among midfielders. Sneijder managed four and Donovan three. In terms of passing accuracy, Lampard was 30th out of 99 midfielders with more than 100 passes whereas Sneijder rated 64th and Donovan 84th. Gerrard was only 77th for passing accuracy, but his last-ditch defending against Germany – he blocked Miroslav Klose's goalbound attempt – more than made up for that.
Q: As a follow-up to that, Thomas Muller was the Budweiser Man of the Match for Germany v England, he scored two goals and made one. Yet Gerrard, Lampard and Gareth Barry all scored higher than him in the Castrol Index – how?
Castrol: A goal is worth more than a shot on target but Muller only had a total of four shots, while Gerrard and Lampard had six each. Looking at the passing in that match, Barry is the best midfielder with an 82 per cent success rate, Lampard second with 74 per cent. Gerrard acheived only 59 per cent, the same as Muller, but made twice as many passes.
Our opinion is that it was a strange game with England making lots of passes and firing off lots of shots while the Germans sat back – they had 20 per cent fewer passes than England. Consequently the England midfield comes out well in the Castrol Index (lots of passing, lots of shots) whereas the German midfield and their attack does not come out so well – only a few attacks and very little passing.
Q: Apart from the Castrol Index I haven't seen or heard much said about the two Chile defenders, Gary Medel and Waldo Ponce, who led the rankings for two successive times. Can you explain why they have done so well?
Castrol: I am sure there's some quote about defenders that goes something like, 'It's not what defenders do on the pitch that is important, but what they don't do'. A defender making 25 tackles and ten clearances in a game is one who is under extreme pressure. A defender who makes no tackles, but a few interceptions, and whose team concedes no shots is very effective, but does not do much.
The Castrol Index rates defenders on their individual defensive performance (tackles and clearances are rewarded, giving away corners, penalties etc are punished) but also makes a judgment on their contribution to the team defensive performance. We look at the chances they allowed the opposition and reward/punish the defenders accordingly. A graph of shots conceded by Chile in the group stage shows very clearly that they did two things, restricting opponents to a very small number of dangerous shots and keeping their opponents out of the 18-yard box. Even the Dutch, rated highly for not allowing many chances, conceded more.
As the central defenders, Medel and Ponce were rewarded most highly for their team’s defensive solidity because the Castrol Index controls from where the shots come. Defenders have scored highly up to now in the Castrol Index because of the low number of goals in the group stage. Spain and Paraguay also allowed very few shots on their goal and that is why their defenders were high in the ranking along with Chile's.
Castrol: With Enyeama, part of the problem is that Nigeria went out at the group stage. As the tournament progresses, performances are rewarded more highly, since the matches tend to be more difficult. In addition, players who have not played a certain number of minutes are penalised, so players from eliminated teams will naturally drop down the rankings.
With Enyeama, the fair comparison is to look at his ranking at the end of the group stage where he was the 22nd best goalkeeper. Maybe that is still surprising? He had made 20 saves, which was the second highest of any keeper but had conceded five goals, which was equal third worst. So the fact he was very busy making saves meant he caught the eye but he did not keep a clean sheet.
He saved 20 out of 25 shots faced, a save percentage of 80 – only the equal 14th best in the group stage which goes a long way to explaining his average ranking. With the goalkeeper ratings we try to strip out the effect of the defence – it is not how many saves he makes but his performance once you have assessed how good/bad the defence is. This means good keepers in good teams have a chance of being top of the Castrol Index. Enyeama is an OK keeper in a team that performed disappointingly.