No surprises that defenders lead the list.
A key metric behind the success of a team is the progressive passing distance of individual players. Teams rely on such individuals to break the lines and find their teammates with those raking but calculated long passes.
Typically a statistic dominated by goalkeepers and defenders, a progressive pass according to FBRef is a pass that moves the ball 10 metres closer to the opposition’s goal. Measuring the cumulative distance of such progressive passes gives us the metric we are looking into. Progressive passing distance should not be overlooked, as they reflect upon the frequency and pace of turnovers while advancing the ball up the pitch.
Here are the top five players with the most progressive passing distance in the 2022 FIFA World Cup. These stats are taken from fbref.com.
6. Harry Maguire (England): 1924 metres
Despite playing only four matches for Manchester United this season, Maguire has been an assured presence in the centre of the English defence. He has progressed the ball 1924 metres and has an assist to his name.
5. John Stones (England): 2432 metres
A defender known for his ball-playing abilities; John Stones has taken that feature of his game to a new level this World Cup. England are now playing with Declan Rice in defensive midfield, while the Henderson-Bellingham duo push ahead to attacking spaces.
Stones has kept the play ticking with his accurately measured long balls and his cross-field switches out to the full-backs and wingers. He has clocked a progressive passing distance of 2432 metres so far.
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4. Aymeric Laporte (Spain): 2489 metres
Yet another Spanish centre-back and yet another ball-playing defender. Playing alongside his Manchester City teammate at the heart of Spain’s defensive line, Aymeric Laporte has created from the back. He progressed the ball 2489 metres in Spain’s run to the Round of 16.
3. Mathew Ryan (Australia): 2579 metres
Australian custodian Mathew Ryan has been a dynamic presence between the sticks, not only making his trademark reflex saves but also with his long-range passing forward. He progressed the ball 2579 metres in Australia’s run to the Round of 16, before tasting defeat to Argentina.
2. Wojciech Szczesny (Poland): 2632 metres
Szczesny made 21 saves for Poland until their elimination at the hands of France, the most by a goalkeeper to date. Another key statistic he topped was the progressive passing distance, moving the ball 2632 metres away from the goal.
1. Rodri (Spain): 3349 metres
Luis Enrique has deployed Rodri as a centre-back and Rodri has mirrored his manager’s faith with a series of telling contributions. The unorthodox role requires Rodri to make passes in a high volume and his long-passing ability meant that he was able to play in defence while aiding in ball progression. It is a duty Rodri does well for City against weaker opposition.
Rodri made 204 accurate passes against Japan, the most in a single game in this World Cup. He then surpassed his own record in the next game against Morocco, making 206 accurate passes. This is now the most passes completed by a single player in a World Cup match.
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