FIFA today released their latest international team world rankings, the final list before the World Cup begins in South Africa next month.
There were few changes to last month’s list, with the top eight completely unmoved – Brazil remain top, and England are eighth.
So with Spain ranked second just behind Brazil, and with both avoiding each other until the final should they top their respective groups, surely FIFA’s latest input suggests that it will be a Brazil/Spain final at Soccer City come July 11th? Well, not exactly.
For, ever since FIFA introduced its rankings in 1993, the four World Cup finals that have followed have each produced one team ranked outside of the top ten in FIFA’s pre-tournament May rankings.
In 1994, Brazil were duly ranked first in FIFA’s May table that year, but fellow finalists Italy were way down in 16th. In 1998, Brazil were still top, but eventual winners France had previously been a lowly 18th, before their triumph on home soil elevated them to second when FIFA released their new table following the Finals.
Germany continued the trend in 2002, when their unfancied 11th placed side shocked many by meeting Brazil in the Yokohama final, and 2006 completed the sequence, as 13th placed Italy played 8th placed France in Berlin’s Olympiastadion.
Could this year finally see a World Cup final that bucks the trend? Maybe so. Unlike previous years, FIFA’s top ten doesn’t omit any obvious international powerhouses, suggesting that football’s governing body might finally have got their system right after all these years.
Russia and Egypt are 11th and 12th respectively, yet didn’t qualify, while Greece, USA, Serbia, Uruguay and Mexico follow, with Chile in France’s lucky 1998 position of 18th.
It means that, if FIFA’s rankings “curse” is to continue this time round, it’ll result in one of the most unexpected finalists in World Cup history.
Who do you think will make the final? Spain/Brazil remains the favourite in the Name the finalists market at 11/1, with England/Spain 12/1 and Argentina/Brazil 18/1. See the full Name the finalists market.