Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland on the up Italy reclaim top spot
Somewhat unsurprisingly, the latest edition of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking shows that world champions Italy are back on top, with Luca Toni’s brace against Scotland in the EURO 2008 qualifiers helping bring Argentina’s brief, one-month reign to an abrupt halt. The Argentineans, who have not played since the last edition of the ranking, have fallen away slightly due to the devaluation of results from previous years, as have Brazil despite recording two victories in friendly matches. There is better news, however, for the Netherlands (6th, up 1), Portugal (7th, up 1) and Spain (9th, up 1) who have all move one place in the top ten, but England (8th, down 2) and the Czech republic (10th, down 1) slip back after a draw in Israel and defeat to Germany respectively.
Impressive performances in EURO 2008 qualifiers result in climbs for Turkey (17th, up 10), the Republic of Ireland (31st, up 20), Northern Ireland (33rd, up 14) and Bosnia-Herzegovina (47th, up 11). Thanks to their stunning victory over Sweden, the Northern Irish have equaled their best-ever world ranking performance, a height last achieved in May 1994. Success in qualifiers for the African Cup of Nations 2008 has also brought significant gains for three major African teams – Cameroon (13th, up 5), Nigeria (27th, up 9) and Guinea (50th, up 12).
Further down the ranking, nine other teams also jump ten or more places, with Liechtenstein (131st, up 31) making the biggest move thanks to their triumph over Latvia, which was only Liechtenstein’s fourth ever victory in competitive football.