FIFA World Rankings Update – The Talking Points

Are the rankings more accurate than we think?

Much is made of the validity of the rankings so it is probably firstly worth asking if you would expect the leading eight teams to form World Cup quarter finalists – if a tournament were to be played right now. Spain, Germany, Argentina, The Netherlands and Italy would be in most people’s picks to form a last eight, however doubts could be raised about the chances of Colombia, Portugal and Croatia. The progress of Colombia might have gone unnoticed by a lot of people and whilst third slightly flatters them they are without doubt one of the most dangerous sides currently in world football – for evidence of that you only need to take a glance at their recent results and it would not unrealistic for them to be targeting a last eight spot next summer. Croatia and Portugal’s place in the top eight though is a little more dubious given that both look unlikely to win their qualification group.

Things get a little more muddy if you were take this theory further and analyse those in the top sixteen and whether they are realistic contenders for a World Cup knock out stages place. Several of them are with Brazil, England and Belgium falling into this category. That said Ivory Coast’s position of thirteenth looks inflated given their persistent tournament failings, whilst Uruguay might not even make the World Cup yet they currently sit twelfth.  

So whilst the rankings have their obvious flaws and notable anomaly’s they actually aren’t that far off from reality – which is rather contrary to what we are often told to believe.

South America dominates

If the current rankings are anything to go by then South America is the dominant force in international football – with seven of its ten nations sitting in the top 21. Europe can of course boast more but then it possess over five times the number of nations. There is a theory behind their rankings success though, for countries in South America have the luxury of playing consistent competitive games against strong nations – meaning they have the opportunity to pick up more points. That said it should not be ignored how strong South American football currently is right now and nobody will want to be drawn in a group alongside the likes of Chile, Colombia and Uruguay next summer. Further to the fact that the highly rated Uruguayans are currently only clinging onto World Cup qualification only goes to show the continents current strength.

Brazil return

Having slumped outside of the top twenty as a result of playing no competitive football since the 2011 COPA America the Brazilian’s took full advantage of the Confederations Cup last month. Winning that tournament means they now return to the top ten at least for now – although the lack of competitive games on the horizon means they are unlikely to stay there.  However come the conclusion of the World Cup they could find themselves in amongst the leaders again, particularly if they can replicate their recent efforts.

Belgium and Bosnia hit new heights

The rise of Belgium is no secret anymore so it is no shock to hear they have now reached their highest ever ranking of tenth. Bosnia though have progressed to their best placing of fourteenth a little more under the radar and whilst the casual fan might feel it is a ranking that flatters them, it is a position that is more than justified. They are probably amongst the most unluckiest side not have made a major tournament in recent times after several near misses, that baron run though looks to be over with a place in Brazil nearly sealed and once there they could cause a real stir.

England slump

If anyone wanted further evidence that England are now a long way off the worlds elite then their current ranking highlights that perfectly. There will be some who still look on them as one of the world’s best and will rebuff this ranking; however given the current talent available coupled with recent qualification returns it is hard to make a convincing argument against it.

African play offs

With the final round of African qualification constituting a single do or die play off fixture there will be much interest in the rankings – given these will decide which four nations are seeded for that draw. The Ivory Coast and Algeria having already qualified and both will go in as seeds if they can sustain their current ranking, as will Ghana and Nigeria – although both still have work to do in order to make the play offs. Things though can of course change between now and then and the likes of Tunisia, Egypt and if they qualify Burkina Faso, could get amongst the highest ranked teams in the final round.