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Stats Do you think it's obvious which payers and teams will have an impact in the World Cup kicking off today?

Perception can really cloud the truth about a situation, particularly in sport. Two seasons ago Chelsea fans would have said French international Florent Malouda got off to a slow start at the club, that he was a weak link being played too wide.

The reality was that he was Chelsea's most valuable player in 2008-09. According to specialist form analysts Bettorlogic, in the 20 matches he played, Chelsea's record was W17-D2-L1, and their points per game fell by 37 per cent without him to 1.67. He didn't suddenly get good in 2009-10, when he got the Premier League's Player of the Month award in March.

But what about team mate Didier Drogba? The perception is that he's a key man in the squad. However, if he doesn't play, Chelsea don't miss him at all, but its doubtful that will give Ivory Coast any reassurance, given his current broken-arm status.

Spain can be a little more relaxed if Fernando Torres isn't in the squad.

Below is some data and analysis on England and some expected World Cup stars, provided by Bettorlogic which might deliver some insight into performances in the World Cup.

England v Top 10-ranked teams

Of the current Top 10-ranked teams, England have the worst record since 1970 when playing Top 10 sides in the knock-out stage of major tournaments. They’ve won only one of their nine such matches and that solitary win was a penalty shoot-out against Spain in Euro 96 at Wembley. They’ve drawn five of the other eight matches in 90 minutes and lost four of those in a penalty shoot-out. Brazil and France have the best record against Top 10 sides in the knock-out phase, with both teams progressing in 71 per cent of their matches. Interestingly, six of Brazil’s 21 such games have been level at full time and all have been settled by a penalty shoot-out.

England in-play

Since 1990, 15 of England’s 39 matches at any stage of a major tournament have been goalless after 50 minutes and England have lost only one of those matches in normal time – the consolation match against Italy in the 1990 World Cup. They’ve conceded in only one other match and won five, which includes two of three in the last World Cup.

World Cup – Premier League stars

Appearances are based on the player starting and completing at least an hour. Samples looked at are their Premier League appearances last season and their performances in their last 30 away matches in the league against top-half teams. Then their recent competitive international appearances were analysed.

Wayne Rooney (England)

England’s leading forward played 31 of Manchester United’s league games last season, and while their PPG was almost identical (2.23 PPG with him compared to 2.29 without) there was a 25 per cent fall in their average goals scored from 2.29 per game with Rooney to just 1.71 per game without. Rooney was United’s leading scorer last season with 26 goals in his 31 appearances.

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