The first two rounds of the World Cup are completed and it hasn’t proved easy for the favourites going in to the tournament. Brazil held to a draw by Switzerland, Germany losing against Mexico and then claiming a last minute win against Sweden, and Argentina losing to Croatia after a draw against Iceland. France top their table, with two narrow 2-1 wins and Spain managed 1-0 against Iran after a 3-3 draw with Portugal.
Given the somewhat unexpected nature of the results, it is important to look at the player performances if we want to understand which teams are likely to improve in the knock-outs (or even progress in the first place).
So I ran the Twelve evaluation algorithm on all World Cup players to get a feeling for who might be leading their teams to victory in the later stages.
The player at the top of the chart was pretty obvious: Harry Kane has scored five goals and that puts him in a clear lead. He was at the right place at the right time, not least as England’s penalty taker!
It is probably the player at two that is most interesting and surprising. Toni Kroos has been the driving force for Germany, and even before his free kick earned him a win against Sweden, Twelve evaluated his attacking and defensive contributions as some of the best we have seen at the tournament.
The question hanging over Germany and Kroos is whether his efforts are really connecting with the rest of the team. Germany seem stuck in somewhat meaningless possession in midfield, which means the algorithm gives them lots of attacking points, but it might not mean they can produce the performances to get through the knockout stages.
Coutinho is Brazil’s best player, both due to his attacking contributions and goals. His teammate Neymar is further down in 19th place. Hazard and Lukaku also rank highly, but it is plausible that Belgium haven’t really been tested yet.
Looking at Luca Modric’s performance we see that Croatia’s win against Argentina was by no means a fluke.
Modric and Ivan Rakitic (12th place) have put in top class performances in defence, attack and scoring goals.
When evaluating over two matches, goals count heavily and scorers rank highly. But if we concentrate just on defending we can see a very important contributions over the whole pitch by one player in particular. Here is N’Golo Kante:
No other player has a defensive map that looks like this. He is everywhere, getting the ball back and making it difficult for the opposition.
Lastly, it has to be said, things look very bad indeed for Argentina. Not only have they lost, but Messi is not even in our top 50 players. No goals, a penalty miss and lots of passing without moving the ball forward enough.