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Does FIFA’s ranking system need revision?

Five days on from Spain’s victory in the final of Euro 2012, pundits around the world are still raving about the possibility that this Spanish side is the greatest of all time.

It seems unfathomable that a team from our generation is being mentioned as the best XI to ever walk onto a football field, but unless you’re Spanish (unfortunately I’m not), there is very little solace to be taken from this, other than the opportunity to get as close to Spain as possible.

Which England have apparently done.

As soon as Euro 2012 reached its conclusion, the powers that be at FIFA were already working out what the previous three weeks had done to the shape of world football.

Of course, Spain consolidated their lead at the top, which came as no great surprise. Germany, defeated semi-finalists and many people’s tip for tournament victory, rose to second, while Copa America champions Uruguay fell to third.

That all seems to make sense, doesn’t it? Spain are without doubt the best team on the planet, while this youthful German side deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Vicente Del Bosque’s.

A few may be surprised at Uruguay’s high standing but, when one considers their victory in the Copa America and their reaching the World Cup semi-finals, it seems to make a lot of sense.

Finding a better solution

But the sense stops there. England are the fourth best team in the world. Taking the rankings literally, England are less than a quarter of a percentage point worse than Uruguay and still comfortably better than Portugal.

The rankings system is a lot like democracy; it isn’t perfect, but until you find a better solution, you’re stuck with it. So maybe we should find a better solution.

The system works by calculating a number of variables: result, quality of opponents, importance of match etc. etc. However, it is so obviously flawed.

By being “hard to beat”, England technically drew against Italy and claimed a draw against France. In other words, the performance matters little, just the result.

This is a phenomenon which may soon be known as ‘Chelsea’s law’.

Although England have had impressive results of late, one must consider the quality of opposition.

They scraped past Norway and Belgium in recent friendlies. England also had Switzerland, Bulgaria, Montenegro and Wales in their qualifying group for Euro 2012.

With all due respect, I’m sure a few sighs of relief were heard around FA headquarters when that draw was made.

Switzerland’s fortunate win against Spain in the World Cup no doubt served to boost their ranking, which then reflected well on England. See the problem?

Behind the times
Only in England could we complain about our own team’s high standing in world football, but there are suggestions that it is part of the problem.

You want to know why? Even if you don’t, I’ll tell you.

Our FA have long been criticised for being too slow to react to the fact that world football is evolving. That we are being left behind like Neanderthals scratching for roots while the better teams eat a big juicy steak.

The reason for this apathy may have something to do with the fact we are apparently the fourth best team in the world…what’s the rush?

Isn’t it also convenient that the FA’s opposition to Sepp Blatter (and his subsequent U-turn regarding goal-line technology) has eased recently as our country climbs the rankings?

This becomes a problem because the high ranking then leads to being in the ‘big teams’ pot when it comes to seeding for major tournaments.

Vicious cycle
In other words, it is an endless cycle: we get ranked highly, we get easy teams, we scrape past them, we stay ranked highly, we then draw a slightly better team in a knockout game, ‘draw’ with them despite being inferior, and get knocked out on penalties. And blame Wayne Rooney for it.

I don’t normally pay much attention to world rankings, but the fact that England are apparently better than Portugal, Italy, Argentina, the Netherlands and Brazil is actually making things a whole lot worse.

We are fourth in the world. And in our squad we had six Liverpool players. Who finished below Everton. Who have no money.

A day after it was confirmed that goal-line technology may be used during next year’s Premier League, perhaps it is time for another large amendment.

By Doug Elder – Follow me on Twitter @DouglasElder2

Follow Total Football on Twitter: @TotalFootball12

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