Rankings That Mean Nothing

The latest FIFA world rankings were released in the last few days, coinciding with the end of the group stages of World Cup qualification, and to say that these rankings are hard to fathom is perhaps giving FIFA too much credit. Obviously FIFA are putting certain teams where they would like to see them and simply drawing the rest from a hat.

FIFA have shot themselves in the foot twice in a matter of weeks, first by announcing that they were to seed teams for the European playoffs, and now with the latest world rankings. The decision to seed teams for the playoffs, a decision taken with 2 games left in the qualification groups, was one motivated by greed, one taken to ensure that Portugal and France had an easy path as possible the World Cup once it became clear that out right qualification was out of their reach. So seeding the teams was a way to prevent Portugal and France meeting each other, or Greece and Russia, something that may have happened in an open draw, which was the draw that should have happened. FIFA made sure that didn’t happen.

So we move on to the latest FIFA rankings. The rankings were foremost to ensure that Portugal, France, Greece and Russia were the top seeded teams in the playoff draw, making a mockery of the hard work put in by Ireland, Bosnia, Slovenia and Ukraine, who all had to finish above teams seeded higher than them. Ireland made the playoffs from a group containing world champions Italy, Bulgaria and Montenegro, and did so unbeaten, a commendable effort. They were justifiably disgusted when FIFA decided to seed the draw, effectively shifting the goal posts. Bosnia Herzegovina is the surprise team in the draw, having qualified ahead of Belgium and Turkey and behind European champions Spain. So the little guys have been screwed by FIFA, who have spoon fed Portugal and France passage through to the World Cup. I’m sure I won’t be the only one rooting for the four 2nd seeded teams.

A look at the latest rankings will highlight just how meaningless they are. Yes, Brazil, Spain, Holland and Italy lead the way – there’s nothing wrong with that. Holland was the first European team to qualify for the World Cup and have been in great form in the last 18 months. Brazil, Spain and Italy are the reigning ConFed, European and World Champions. It would be hard for FIFA not to have them at the top, but their self serving ambitions means they had to be up there regardless of their titles. Argentina have been hugely disappointing in South American qualification and just squeaked through in the final game, taking the 4th and final automatic place. Yet they have moved up two places to 5th? Croatia failed to qualify finishing 3rd behind England and the Ukraine, yet they’ve moved up to 8th? France were expected to top their group but made hard work of qualification before eventually finishing 2nd and settling for a place in the playoffs – and they’ve moved up. Portugal have struggled the most from the big teams and were the 1st seeds in their group but were lucky to eventually finish 2nd and making the playoffs, having looked like missing out all together for much of the last 18 months, with terrible form and disappointing results. But not only have Portugal moved up but they have somehow managed to jump 7 places! The Czech Republic failed to even make the playoffs yet they’ve managed to move up the rankings. The biggest mystification is how Denmark, who finished top of a Portugal’s group, a group that also contained Sweden, and so managed automatic qualification, have dropped 11 places! Serbia, who topped Frances group, finds themselves down 7 places.

Africa and South America are not immune to FIFA’s magic hat and thumb sucking either. We’ve already mentioned Argentina’s rise, and in Africa Ghana were the first African team to qualify and have been hugely impressive in doing so. Guess what? Ghana has dropped 6 places to 38.

They say a league table never lies, and perhaps that’s true, but clearly a ranking table will always bring about discussion and arguments, but the merit of FIFA’s world rankings must be cast in serious doubt. Has there ever been a ranking that seems as meaningless and self serving?

to see the full rankings go to http://www.fifa.com/worldfootball/ranking/lastranking/gender=m/fullranking.html

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