France’s footballers said goodbye to Brazil this weekend but not before leaving a final mark on the Castrol Index statistical ranking. The quarter-finals of this FIFA World Cup™ ended with Les Bleus featured among the four casualties but with Karim Benzema and Raphael Varane placed in the top three either side of the tournament’s leading scorer, James Rodriguez of Colombia.
Like the French pair, Rodriguez’s tournament is over after Colombia’s loss to Brazil on a difficult night for the talented No10, who received close attention from the host team even if he raised hopes of a comeback by converting a penalty to reduce the deficit to 2-1 and take his tally for Brazil 2014 to six.
Benzema’s tally is half of that – three goals – but what was striking about his efforts during the tournament was his constant threat in opposition penalty boxes. He shot a lot, and shot inside the box, and although France failed to find the Germany net on Friday, Benzema came as close as anybody with six shots on target.
Indeed, in each half he could not have been closer. One follow-up shot was deflected over after Manuel Neuer had saved from Mathieu Valbuena in the first period; then, at the very end, he saw his angled shot fisted away by Neuer. He bows out having had more attempts on target, 25, than any other player – and 21 of them were inside the opposition penalty area.
Varane, a key player in a France defence that kept three clean sheets in their five games in Brazil, joined his Real Madrid team-mate in the top three. The 21-year-old ranks in the top ten in the tournament for blocks and there was one notable example in the 87th minute from an Andre Schurrle effort just eight metres from goal. Minutes played are another factor in players’ Index ratings and Varane completed the full 90 minutes in all four matches that he started.
Two other defenders complete the top five: Thiago Silva and Mats Hummels. In the case of Silva, he turned in Brazil’s opening goal against Colombia on another evening when the Seleção centre-backs underlined their importance once more. There had been questions raised about Silva’s captaincy in the local press when he did not take a penalty against Chile but he was a key player in Fortaleza and his Index score was further boosted by his blocking and ball recovery work – with one particularly significant close-range block from Cristian Zapata in the second half.
It is telling that his partner David Luiz, who hit the second goal with a brilliant free-kick, is also in the top ten, sitting seventh – one place ahead of Neymar – as the two Brazil centre-backs have performed as well as anybody in the canary-yellow shirt.
As for Hummels, he had missed Germany’s Round of 16 meeting with Algeria owing to flu-like symptoms. Joachim Low must have been more than glad to have him back after an afternoon when he headed the only goal and also produced a decisive intervention in his own penalty box, throwing himself in the way of a Benzema shot with 16 minutes remaining. It was one of three close-range blocks by the Borussia Dortmund man, who has jumped from 40th place to fifth.
As the goal average dipped in the quarter-finals – it now stands at 2.6 after the four games produced five goals – it seems reasonable that defenders should gain more prominence. The Netherlands’ right-sided central defender Stefan de Vrij is the Oranje player with most tackles to his name, five, and he climbed into ninth place after a second Dutch clean sheet of the finals, against Costa Rica. Belgium’s offensive-minded left-back Jan Vertonghen completes the top ten, with the full list as follows:
Karim Benzema, France (9.79); James Rodriguez, Colombia (9.74); Raphael Varane, France (9.7); Thiago Silva, Brazil (9.66); Mats Hummels, Germany (9.63); Arjen Robben, Netherlands (9.59); David Luiz, Brazil (9.56); Neymar, Brazil (9.53); Stefan de Vrij, Netherlands (9.51), Jan Vertonghen, Belgium (9.48).
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 links on the right.