Lucio's love affair with the FIFA Confederations Cup is fast becoming one of world football's great romances. This was the Brazil centre-half's fourth Festival of Champions - only Dida has played in more - and scoring a dramatic winner to seal lift his first trophy as Selecao captain provided a climax almost too perfect to be true. That, however, wasn't to be the end of Lucio's South Africa 2009 story.
Instead, he today receives an honour that, though far from undeserved, is sure to be unexpected: winner of the FIFA Confederations Cup Castrol Index. This innovative system, which uses the latest technology to objectively analyse and rank player performances, had been dominated by Spain's front two from the first round, with Lucio nowhere to be seen in the top 20 until the final round of group matches.
Even then, he entered at No16, and his subsequent progress was only sufficient to see him climb five places to 11th after the semi-final win over South Africa. So how did he emerge as South Africa 2009's statistical king, seeing off the likes of long-term leader David Villa and adidas Golden Ball winner Kaka?
The answer, according to Castrol Performance Analysts, is that the Brazil captain produced one of the performances of the tournament against USA, one that ranked alongside Giuseppe Rossi's rescuing of Italy against the Americans and Fernando Torres' one-man demolition of New Zealand at the top of the statistical standings. Lucio's ‘score' of 1551 from the final ended up hefty enough to inch him ahead of team-mate Kaka, whose Castrol rating was adversely affected by some lax defensive moments, including his failure to track Landon Donovan's run at USA's second goal.
Dempsey denied as O Fabuloso climbs
Despite earning plus points for some impressive creative play, Kaka actually dropped a place, slipping to third behind the Americans' South Africa 2009 talisman, Clint Dempsey. Outstanding against both Egypt and Spain, the Fulham midfielder was found by Castrol to be USA's second-most effective outfield player in the final behind Landon Donovan, outscoring Kaka and only losing out on top spot due to Lucio's inspirational display.
The Brazil captain earned credit throughout the tournament for his impressive attacking endeavours and saved the best for last, with his bullet header completing a stirring comeback started by the deadly Luis Fabiano. The tournament's top scorer climbed from tenth to fifth on the back of his final heroics and may well have threatened Lucio but for the damaging legacy of a poor showing against USA during the group stage.
With names such as Torres, Maicon, Capdevila and Aboutrika all featuring prominently, the Castrol Index's top 20 offers a statistical representation of South Africa 2009 that, for many, will fit closely with what they witnessed on the pitch. Some, of course, will wonder why their own particular favourite does not feature, and perhaps the most obvious absentee is the tournament's adidas Golden Glove winner, Tim Howard.
The USA keeper made 33 saves during the tournament, almost twice as many as his nearest rival, but he also conceded more goals than any other keeper and his overall score paid the price for a disappointing opening showing against Italy. Castrol ranked Howard as South Africa 2009's second-best keeper, behind Mohamed Kassid, the Iraq No1 whose outstanding displays ensured the Asian champions conceded just one goal during their three matches.
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