The top five player performances at the 2018 World Cup

World Cup Eden Hazard Harry Kane Cristiano Ronaldo Toni Kroos Luka ModricConsidering the whole basis of Twelve’s world is an algorithm, it may seem odd to say we’re not obsessed with the numbers. But it’s the truth; we want fans to write what they think about a match, player or team, and then see what our statistics say, not the other way round. We had numerous excellent articles during the World Cup which did exactly that.

But then again, when you’re generating player scores based on millions of data points, it seems a shame not to see who the top five in a tournament were. After all, who doesn’t love a list they can argue with? If you want to see how a certain player scored in a particular World Cup match, we have a spreadsheet containing links to every game’s leader board, so you’ve got no excuse not to have a look for yourself. Without further ado, here are Twelve’s top five performances at the 2018 World Cup.

5. Eden Hazard vs. Tunisia

The Silver Ball winner picked up three man of the match gongs from Twelve during the World Cup, but his pinnacle was his 67 minutes against Tunisia in Belgium’s second match in Group G. It was a strange game in many ways; Michy Batshuayi finished second in the leader board for the game despite only playing 26 minutes. While Roberto Martinez made the correct choice in protecting Hazard as Belgium were 4-1 up when he was withdrawn, he would’ve probably topped this chart had he played the full match.

Hazard completed 40 dribbles in Russia, which was the most of any player. Kylian MbappĂ© was next with 32, and then Isco and Messi were joint-third with 23, so it’s clear the (at the time of writing) Chelsea man was streets ahead of the competition.

Nobody who played more than 77 minutes in the tournament completed more dribbles per 90 minutes than he did either. The vast majority of players would be happy to complete three dribbles in 67 minutes, yet as we can see here Hazard completed three which our algorithm deemed as important (thanks to being in or around the opposition penalty box). Throw in two goals, a pass into the box, and several ball recoveries in the attacking third and you have a very impressive performance indeed.

4. Harry Kane vs. Panama

On a points per minute basis, this was the best effort among these five. Kane only played 62 minutes, as at that point England were 6-0 up and his work was very much done. Like Hazard, Kane topped the leader board in three matches at the 2018 World Cup, and he also deserves credit for being the only man here to have another performance in the tournament top 10; he logged 3,349 points in the round of 16 match with Colombia, which was the ninth best player score in Russia.

But is Kane lucky to feature here? After all, there are no points for artistic impression with Twelve. All goals are awarded 1,000 points, whether they are the BBC’s goal of the tournament or if they deflect of your heel when you know nothing about it, which is what happened for Kane’s hat-trick clincher in this game.

His first two goals were penalties, and he picked up 300 points for assisting a goal when it could be argued he did no such thing. Kane assisted Sterling’s effort which the goalkeeper saved, before John Stones pounced to convert the rebound. Is that really a goal assist? Answers on a postcard please, or simply comment at the bottom of the page, it’s up to you.

But then that’s the life of a centre-forward. Do nothing but put the ball in the net a few times and you’re still a hero. Someone else who scored a hat-trick in Russia is next in our countdown too.

3. Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Spain

Ronaldo’s performance against Spain was very similar to Kane’s against Panama; three goals scored, but not much else to shout about. However, I think we can all agree that if Twelve ever did introduce points for goal quality or goal importance then Portugal’s talisman certainly outshone England’s main man here.

The Juventus new boy didn’t pick up any points for off-ball pressing, and his attacking performance was the weakest of the five players here (albeit a penalty win should perhaps be worth more than 32 points?).

The main difference between Ronaldo and Kane was the former’s defensive work. He blocked a shot and made a clearance in the Portuguese box, picking up 119 points in the process, which accounted for roughly two thirds of the points difference between them.

Like every player on this list, Ronaldo picked up more than one man of the match award from Twelve during the tournament. In his case, it was in Portugal’s 1-0 win over Morocco where he scored the winner. While he deserved the plaudits for settling a low quality encounter, Ronaldo claimed the prize with the lowest points tally of any MOTM of all 64 games at the 2018 World Cup: 1,460. From the sublime to the ridiculous in successive matches.

2. Toni Kroos vs. Sweden

This was by far and away the highest scoring of these five performances on our attack metric, and you can see why. Crosses, passes into the box, dribbles near the penalty area and chances created; they’re all here. Kroos amassed enough points from attacking actions alone to take the man of the match award in this game, which is remarkable. And, lest we forget, he scored a 95th minute winner to keep Germany in the World Cup, for all the good it ultimately did them. Wasn’t a bad goal either, was it?

So why was his performance widely criticised on social media? He wasn’t great for Sweden’s goal, and while our algorithm picks up a lot of things, it didn’t dock him points for that; indeed, his performance has the lowest error score of the five in this list.

Ultimately Kroos did a lot of things which contribute towards goals, and he got over double the number of points as the next best performer in this match (who was Marco Reus, since you ask). Whether you think he played well or not, he certainly did enough to impress David the Bot.

1. Luka Modric vs. Russia

It seems fitting the Golden Ball winner, who Twelve also picked as the best player overall, topped this list. It was also the only performance in our top five which took place in a knock-out match, so it should get extra credit there too.

Then again, the match wasn’t settled in 90 minutes and Modric picked up 1,000 points for scoring a penalty in the shoot-out. On a points per minute basis, it was actually the weakest of the five performances listed here.

But there’s no denying the Croatian put in a proper shift here; in a countdown bereft of defensive players, he comfortably topped the defence ranking for this quintet. As you can see in his chart, Modric made 15 important defensive actions (which are marked in red), running the gamut from his own penalty area to the Russian goal line.

Our algorithm chose not to deem any of his off ball work as vital, but if you select the ‘Only important actions’ button on his dashboard, you’ll see over 30 occasions where he put pressure on an opponent who was looking to make a pass.

Modric may not have been able to drag Croatia over the line against France, but he was their top performer in the final, and he topped the match leader board in their win over Nigeria too. All-in-all the Real Madrid man had a fabulous tournament, and it’s heartening to see him top this ranking.

I hope you enjoyed our little countdown. Here’s a dashboard with all five of the above performances on it, so go wild. Is there anyone who our algorithm missed? There inevitably was, so please let us know in the comments below.

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