As the Netherlands and Spain prepare to slug it out for the beautiful game’s greatest prize, the battle for the Castrol Index title is becoming increasingly closely-fought. However, there is no doubt over which of the two finalists boasts the greater number of prominent contenders, with Spain’s back four doubling as the top four in this latest Index table.
Wesley Sneijder remains the Oranje’s sole representative in the Index’s upper reaches, while it is also possible that the ultimate winner will come from one of the two beaten semi-finalists. Hope remains for the likes of displaced leader Phillip Lahm, who slipped to fifth, with Castrol’s analytical look at previous FIFA World Cups™ having concluded that West Germany’s Gerd Muller was the best player at Mexico 1970, despite being a losing semi-finalist.
Profiting from Lahm’s slide was Sergio Ramos, with Spain’s adventurous and energetic right-back seizing pole position following another dynamic display. A constant presence in the top 20 since the second round of group matches, Ramos began yesterday in second but ended it top for the first time after a match in which he was rated as the third-most effective player behind Carles Puyol and Iker Casillas. The Real Madrid defender excelled in both defence and attack, and finished the game with a superb passing success rate of 87 per cent – the second-best of anyone on the pitch.
Puyol on the charge, Dutch disappointed
Puyol, meanwhile, emerges as the most significant climber in this latest Index. The Barcelona captain went into last night’s semi-final in 22nd position, the only member of the Spanish rearguard outside the top five, but his courageous defending – which included four key clearances - and decisive goal prompted a rise to second in the standings.
If there is one team likely to be disappointed by this latest Index, it is the Netherlands. At first glance, the Dutch would certainly seem to be under-represented in the top 20, having advanced to their first FIFA World Cup Final in 32 years on the back of a record sequence of wins. However, according to Castrol Performance Analysts, the success of Bert van Marwijk’s side has been built more on cohesive teamwork than individual brilliance from any one area of their talented team. The Dutch forwards have proved less prolific than others, for example, while their defence has conceded more goals and afforded the opposition more chances than the likes of Spain and Paraguay.
Sneijder does, however, continue to hold a prominent position at seventh, and is well placed to challenge for top spot should he excel in the Final. The Inter Milan star would be higher still, but was deemed to have been wasteful in possession against Uruguay, a finding supported by his modest pass completion rate of 69 per cent. Nonetheless, Castrol Performance Analysts still rank the Dutchman as the best midfielder on show at South Africa 2010.
Consolation for Neuer
Nonetheless, it was one of the Oranje’s lesser-known players, Joris Mathijsen, who was adjudged to be their top performer in the thrilling semi-final against Uruguay. The Hamburg defender’s quiet efficiency earned him an impressive score of 9.19, comparing favourably to the goalscoring trio of Sneijder (7.36), Giovanni van Bronckhorst (7.65) and Arjen Robben (8.74). Mathijsen’s performance was not, however, impressive enough to take him into the top 20, although he, Van Bronckhorst and Mark van Bommel have moved into the top 30 for the first time. Robben continues to languish well outside the top 100 due almost entirely to his lack of playing time during the group stage, while inactivity also cost Thomas Muller, who dropped out of the top 20 after sitting out the match with Spain.
Luis Suarez did not suffer to the same extent, keeping his place in the top ten thanks to some outstanding earlier performances, while Maximiliano Pereira – adjudged to be Uruguay’s best player against the Dutch - moved up to 11th. There was also some consolation for Germany No1 Manuel Neuer, who climbed to the top of the goalkeeping charts, ahead of the erstwhile leader, Japan's Eiji Kawashima, on the back of another excellent display.
FIFA.com is 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.