Like most FIFA initiatives, the rankings are something nobody takes any notice of. Although they are used to
fix seed qualifying competitions and play-offs, which are generally fixed anyway, it’s not as if they mean anything of any substance to supporters.
Do you honestly care whether your country lies first, fourth or eighth in a rankings table? That’s like seeing your favourite celebrity hottie not making No1 in the FHM Top 100 list. You might be disappointed with the verdict, but it’s not going to change your mind. The only thing that really counts in international football is whether you win a major tournament, beat the Germans or bet on the winning team.
And anyway, anything given the Sepp Blatter seal of approval immediately loses any credence. This, after all, is a man who refuses to embrace TV technology, presumably because it means he can’t influence the outcome of matches, who wields such political power that he was recently re-elected unopposed, because nobody dared stand against him and who once suggested women’s football could be improved if they wore shorter shorts. Actually, maybe he’s not that out of touch after all.
While Brazil’s No1 FIFA ranking is an acceptable outcome, given the unquestionable talent at their disposal and the fact they won the Confederations Cup last year, the Selecão do tend to play more globe-trotting friendlies than anyone else, thereby ratcheting up endless rankings points in the process.
But the nonsense that is FIFA’s rankings is best highlighted by the fact that Portugal are third in the list. That’s like Keely Hazell coming fifth in the FHM top 100. (They’re alright but they’re only up there because of the sex tapes).
Portugal’s rating is down to their impressive qualifying campaign for Euro2008, in which they went unbeaten for all but one match, but how relevant is that now? Carlos Queiroz’s side almost didn’t make it to the World Cup at all this time around, only coming through after a (favourably drawn) play-off with Bosnia-Herzegovina. And this week they could only draw 0-0 with the Cape Verde Islands, who incidentally are placed 117th in FIFA’s precious rankings.
The only quality stamp worth taking note of before the World Cup is the one given to the teams by the bookmakers. These are the guys who stand to make or lose millions on the strength of their judgment. FIFA could do worse than sign a tie-up with an official bookmaker and calculate the world order according to what the traders say. The rankings would still be pointless but at least they’d be right.
For the record, the bookies universally make Spain the World Cup favourites, closely followed by Brazil, England, Argentina and then Holland, while the Fifa rankings go 1. Brazil, 2. Spain, 3. Portugal, 4. Holland, 5. Italy.