Turkey and Bulgaria on the march
RIVALS CLOSE GAP ON ARGENTINA
Argentina’s first defeat in FIFA World Cup™ qualifying has allowed Brazil and Italy, both winners in midweek fixtures, to close the gap at the top of the new FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, although the Albiceleste will take their slender advantage with them into the new year. The latest table shows significant changes among the pursuing pack: Spain (4th, up 2) have opened a sizeable gap on the rest of the top ten, the Czech Republic (6th, up 3) have powered ahead after winning their EURO 2008 qualifying group, and resurgent European champions Greece (11th, up 3) are once again knocking at the top ten door.
The biggest movers of the month come from south-eastern Europe and Israel. Turkey’s triumph in sealing a berth at EURO 2008 has rolled them 12 places forward to 16th, with Bulgaria making good 16 positions to 18th. Israel, up 11 places to 26th, are closing in on their best-ever placing – 22nd in 1999 – since the introduction of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking. Other nations making spectacular leaps forward include FYR Macedonia (59th, up 16), Belarus (60th, up 34) and Lithuania (61st, up 29).
Further afield from Europe, New Zealand’s early FIFA World Cup™ qualifying wins have prompted a 33-piace rise to 95th and a not-unexpected return to top spot in Oceania. In Asia, Syria (109th, up 17), Korea DPR (117th, up 12), and fast-charging Turkmenistan (127th, up 31) catch the eye. The FIFA/ Coca-Cola World Ranking currently assesses 207 nations, as Sao Tome and Principe are no longer classified due to a lack of footballing activity.