Dan Nichols


The world rankings are in, but unfortunately they do not provide an accurate snapshot of the true order within international football.

Yesterday (Thursday 9th of July) FIFA released the updated world rankings. Following the Copa America tournament, as well as a host of other friendlies across the globe, there was always going to be plenty of movement.

Unfortunately, once again, the current rankings fail to accurately depict the true standings within world football.

World champions Germany have fallen from top spot, as Copa America runners-up Argentina ascended to number one.

This despite the fact Germany that are currently in possession of the trophy that proves they currently are the best team in the world.

Argentina, who finished second in the World Cup, to Germany, are now officially the best international side in the world.

Chile, who recently beat the aforementioned Argentina, sit outside the top 10, despite beating the likes of Brazil, Uruguay and Colombia to capture the title.

With all due respect to the Welsh side, I do not believe that they are the tenth best side in the world right now.

For those who haven't seen the rankings, the top ten looks like this:

  1. Argentina
  2. Germany
  3. Belgium
  4. Colombia
  5. Netherlands
  6. Brazil
  7. Portugal
  8. Romania
  9. England
  10. Wales

Breaking down the top 10

It's always a curious look when the world champions don't top the rankings, no matter what the sport.

Argentina, despite losing the Copa America final in penalties, had a tremendous tournament and pooled plenty of points. As runners up in the two largest tournaments they are eligible to play, you can't begrudge them top spot, despite the obvious fact they were second best in the premier tournament.

Germany at number two is acceptable, although as mentioned I believe they should be number one.

Belgium made it to the top eight in last year's world cup and haven't lost too many games over the past few years and are good value for their ranking.

Colombia are in the same bracket as Belgium, having made the world cup quarter finals but had an indifferent Copa America. I believe they are placed too highly.

The Netherlands and Brazil finished one game short of a world cup final roughly 12 months ago and are worthy of their positions. One could argue they should be above Colombia at least.

Portugal hold seventh spot despite not emerging from their group at last year's world cup. Of course a one off tournament should not be the be all and end all for rankings, however, a side ranked in the top ten should have breezed through what was not the most difficult of groups.

Romania, in eighth, did not even qualify for the world cup. They sit above the likes of Spain, Chile and Italy. Let that sink in.

In ninth are England. Having come away from Brazil with only the one point, and having not set the world alight prior or since, I cannot understand how England remain in the top ten.

As mentioned previously, Wales round out the top ten nations. No side who failed to qualify for the most recent major tournament should be anywhere near the elite nations, rankings wise. They did not qualify for Euro 2012, and were nowhere to be seen at the 2010 World Cup either.

Closer to home

The Socceroos have shot up the rankings to the dizzying heights of 59th. We are now in the company of traditional footballing powerhouses such as Guinea and the Cape Verde Islands. We have even leapfrogged the might of Congo and Mali.

If it sounds like I am being sarcastic, I am.

Iran (38), Japan (50) and the Korea Republic (52) are three Asian nations who sit above the Socceroos, despite the Asian Championship sitting proudly in the FFA trophy room.

Quick Fire Examples

Here are some quick fire examples of how the rankings do not accurately portray the true standings.

- Costa Rica sit in 41st position despite topping a world cup group that contained Uruguay, England and Italy. Tunisia sit in 32nd.

- France, in 22nd spot, sit seven positions behind Slovakia.

Honestly, I could go on for another hour.

Flaws in the calculations

For those scratching their heads at the above statements, here is how the points are calculated:

A team's total number of points over a four-year period is determined by adding:
- The average number of points gained from matches during the past 12 months; and
- The average number of points gained from matches older than 12 months (depreciates yearly).

There are other factors that come into it later, such as importance of the match, and strength of opposition, but there is nowhere near enough importance placed on the elite tournaments.

Surely, SURELY, performance in major tournaments, or qualification for major tournaments, needs to count for more. How a side can crack the top ten without qualifying for any of the past three major tournaments is mindboggling.

Australia could play a series of friendlies, and record one-nil victories against the likes of Thailand, Moldova, Botswana and Aruba and record more points than Germany would if they were to beat Argentina in a friendly.

It seems as though if you play, and win, a massive amount of games against lesser opposition, you can rocket up the rankings. If a nation wants to improve its standing, it just needs to organise a calendar stacked full of easy friendlies.

Solution

The rankings need to incorporate common sense. Of course as soon as you start adding subjectivity into the piece, opinions will differ and arguments will start.

I believe that Germany, based on the fact they are current world champions, should be locked into the number one spot until the completion of the next world cup.

A world champion boxer stays atop of the rankings in his division until he is beaten for the championship. He can lose 50 non-title fights but until he is beaten for the title, he remains champion.

The same should apply to the rankings. Until someone other than Germany claims the world cup trophy, they are the number one side in the world.

Germany could lose every friendly between now and the next world cup, qualify for the next world cup via a 92nd minute stoppage time winner in a playoff and still remain the holders of the world cup. Hence they should remain number one.

From there, well it's anyone's guess as to the perfect system, but while the likes of Romania and Wales sit above Copa America champions Chile and 2010 world cup winner Spain, the FIFA world rankings are simply all over the shop.