Thomas Muller has already attracted plenty of back-page headlines in this FIFA World Cup™ so it is no surprise to see the Germany forward at the head of the Castrol Index at the end of the first set of group-stage matches.
Muller’s treble against Portugal in Germany’s comprehensive opening Group G win on Monday meant he ranked higher than any other player in the opening round of 16 games, although the make-up of the top ten-ranked players shows it is not just the forwards who earned recognition.
Naturally, Muller got plenty of that in Salvador where his precision brought the tournament’s first hat-trick from four attempts on goal and a 9.75 index score. After his immaculate penalty conversion, his sharpness was notably evident in his second strike when he reacted in a flash as the ball dropped his way off Bruno Alves. The Bayern Munich man was then in the right place to tap in the third and the fact they were all close-range efforts worked in his favour as these shots are more likely to end in the net. Indeed the only players to have had more goal attempts inside the area so far are France’s Karim Benzema and Australia’s Tim Cahill.
Muller provided an impressive focal point for German’s fluid attack with Joachim Low praising the forward's “magnificent” efforts on behalf of his team – “he ran around a lot and created a lot of pressure,” said the coach – and additionally, his passing accuracy of 61% is worthy of mention. For a player in his position, at the top end of the pitch, it is normal to lose the ball on occasions but he did not give it away cheaply.
Overall the first round of fixtures produced 49 goals at an average of 3.06 per game and there are four other goal-scoring forwards in the top ten, with Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben sixth and seventh respectively after scoring twice each in the Netherlands’ stunning 5-1 defeat of holders Spain. Alexis Sanchez and Cahill also feature after finding the net in the same Chile-Australia game – in Cahill’s case, it is the third successive World Cup in which he has scored.
If the football world was already quite familiar with that list of front men, Iran’s Mehrdad Pooladi is rather less well known outside of his home country but the Persepolis full-back sits second in the ranking with a score of 9.7 after helping Team Melli earn a point in the tournament’s first goalless match against Nigeria. A measure of Iran’s defensive effort against Nigeria is that have posted more completed clearances than any other team aside from Mexico – and Pooladi’s performance included six tackles, a header off the line from Shola Ameobi and, when the opportunity allowed, some steady work in the final third of the pitch where he completed five of six attempted passes.
Defenders actually occupy four of five places in the top five. USA central defender Geoff Cameron had an integral role in the success of an impressively organised American side against Ghana and sits third with a score of 9.64. Besides shadowing Asamoah Gyan, he made several noteworthy blocks – getting in the way of a Jordan Ayew effort on the stroke of half-time, and then diverting a Gyan shot over the crossbar before thwarting Andre Ayew. John Boye’s display from a left-back position for Ghana in the same game earned him eighth place in this initial ranking.
David Luiz is the highest-ranked player for the host country in fourth – having made his presence felt in both penalty boxes against Croatia, whom Brazil allowed just four attempts on target. Meanwhile, England’s Phil Jagielka, sits fifth and his fine display against Italy was summed up when he got back to his goalline to head the ball clear after Mario Balotelli had lobbed Joe Hart.
The full list of the top ten is as follows:
Thomas Muller, Germany (9.75); Mehrdad Pooladi, Iran (9.7); Geoff Cameron, USA (9.64); David Luiz, Brazil (9.6); Phil Jagielka, England (9.56); Robin van Persie, Netherlands (9.52); Arjen Robben, Netherlands (9.48); John Boye, Ghana (9.45); Alexis Sanchez, Chile (9.42); Tim Cahill, Australia (9.39).
FIFA.com will be publishing the latest Castrol Index after every round of matches at this FIFA World Cup and in the meantime you can read more statistical analysis and delve deeper into this unique ranking system by following the relevant links.