Power Ranking Every World Football Nation Ahead of World Cup Qualifiers
With the club season finally complete, international football is just heating up.
A week of friendlies has set the stage for a summer of World Cup qualifying matches, which kicks off Tuesday with a few glamorous ties.
Further, the Confederations Cup in Brazil is just around the corner, a tournament that will serve as an appetizer for next year's World Cup.
So what should fans expect heading into this important month of international action?
Using my recognized ranking system, every national team has been evaluated and placed in order.
As was the case in my previous rankings, the metric for rating the teams is based upon performances over a four-year period.
In each match, the teams were assigned a score based upon four key factors:
- The result of that particular match
- The importance of the match
- The quality of opposition in that match
- How recently that match was played
Using these scores and a few more factors that bear less mentioning (i.e. continental power, the team's talent, etc), a series of operations are performed to give the team a final score out of 1000.
The nations are then ranked by those scores, yielding the top 209 national teams.
Now, it should be noted that this ranking is not meant to be used as a strict predictor of matches (though it can be used quite effectively through the use of some tough statistical analysis).
Rather, form and talent are only a part of this list, as results at the highest level are valued greatly.
Where does your favorite team rank?
Without further ado, here is the latest installment of the Wagner World Rankings.
|209||Turks and Caicos Islands||0.6||-|
|203||British Virgin Islands||31.8||+2|
The bottom of the barrel has, unsurprisingly, stayed the same over the past month-and-a-half since the last rankings.
The three teams in the last spots, San Marino, Bhutan and Turks and Caicos Islands, each have failed to get a result in any match over the past four years.
The team with the best chance of getting out of this group is South Sudan.
The Africans are in the bottom nine mostly because they are a brand new national side, with just four matches in their history (all within the past year).
A draw with Uganda in their first match has them above the very bottom, but three losses since then can't get them out of the bottom nine.
Lars Baron/Getty Images
The biggest mover from this group of 20 nations is Eritrea, who fell nine spots from 183 to 192.
The drop was the result of Eritrea's only result, a World Cup qualifying draw with Rwanda, getting even further away.
Despite losing two fairly recent matches, Mauritania moved up six spots thanks to a few World Cup qualifying losses falling out of the four-year window.
Phil Walter/Getty Images
|165||Central African Republic||137.7||-1|
|159||St Vincent and the Grenadines||155.3||-|
|158||St Kitts and Nevis||157.3||-|
The middle of this group stayed mostly the same since the last rankings, but there were two very different stories on the opposite ends.
On the bottom, St. Lucia moved up nine spots over the past month-and-a-half, thanks to a big win at Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
Meanwhile, the Solomon Islands fell quite a bit, dropping from 142 to 152, mostly due to their hefty losses at home in World Cup qualifying.
Gallo Images/Getty Images
|148||Cape Verde Islands||182.7||-5|
The teams that moved up the best in this group are mostly European teams, such as the Faroe Islands, Malta and Luxembourg.
None of those teams played a match over the past few months, but have only had losses move further into the past.
Meanwhile, the biggest fall of these teams comes from Togo, who went from 116 to 123. This was mostly due to the fact that they replaced a World Cup qualifying victory over Cameroon from just over four years ago with a World Cup qualifying loss to the same team just a few months ago.
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
|116||Trinidad and Tobago||245.6||-1|
|98||Democratic Republic Congo||284.1||-2|
The biggest shock of this group is how low Mali is, coming in at just 92nd place.
While the Malians have finished third in each of the last two Africa Cup of Nations tournaments, other factors have conspired against them.
After all, they put in a bad showing in qualification for the 2010 World Cup, losing to Ghana and drawing Benin, lost to Benin in 2014 World Cup qualifying, went out in the group stage of the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations and even put in some average performances in the group stage of the 2012 and 2013 Africa Cup of Nations before coming good.
In essence, they still have some room for improvement and are facing some trouble from Algeria in their World Cup qualifying group.
Meanwhile, the shake-ups in Europe continued to affect these standings, with Northern Ireland's home loss to Israel pushing them down.
Stu Forster/Getty Images
This group is filled with middling teams that are poised to make big moves, one way or the other, over the next few years.
Iceland and Wales are two teams on the rise, as the Welsh ride superstar Gareth Bale and the Icelanders look on their way to a shocking World Cup qualifying playoff appearance.
Meanwhile, Scotland are heading in the other direction, as they are riding some minor successes from years ago to even be as high as they are.
At the top of the group, New Zealand have fallen far over the past month or so, as their loss at the 2012 Nations Cup has replaced some better results from four years ago.
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
The big climbers in this group are Qatar and Montenegro—both nations earned their big jump.
For Qatar, a few friendly victories over the past month, combined with their push in World Cup qualifying, has them rising up the table and hoping for an improbable ticket to Brazil.
Montenegro, meanwhile, keep improving and hold a lead over England, Ukraine and Poland in their World Cup qualifying group.
Another team to watch for here is Israel, who are pushing Portugal to the brink in their qualifying group.
Matt Sullivan/Getty Images
|25||Republic of Ireland||446.6||+2|
This range of teams were so close in their scores that very small changes switched their order quite a bit.
The USA's win over a depleted Germany was not enough to save them from a small fall, as their loss to Belgium saw them switch spots with their conquerors.
For Bosnia-Herzegovina and Switzerland, inactivity allowed Ireland and Iran to leapfrog them. However, both nations have nice leads in their World Cup qualifying groups and are poised to make appearances in Brazil.
The Ivory Coast did nothing, dropping points just because a few hefty World Cup qualifying wins fell out of the four-year window.
Finally, a draw at Brazil was good enough for them to swap spots with Denmark.
Adam Pretty/Getty Images
The big climber in this group and the top 30 is Colombia, who have been on an absolute tear in South America.
The Colombians are still held back a bit by their previous record, but they are certainly on the up.
As for the rest of this group, a few poor results have dictated all of the movement.
Japan and Mexico, who have both had some subpar results over the past few months, dropped points and fell behind some other teams.
Because of this, a very out-of-form Uruguayan side has climbed all the way up to 11th, almost entirely on the merit of their fine record from 2009-2011 (semifinalists at the 2010 World Cup and 2011 Copa America champions).
Michael Steele/Getty Images
Points out of 1000: 499.0
Despite the fact that their group contains Portugal, Russia have been dominant in Group F so far and look set to make it to Brazil.
Russia's ranking is a testament to how well they have been playing over the past few months.
After all, the team has been disappointing over the past four years, losing out on a bid for the 2010 World Cup and somehow getting eliminated in their Euro 2012 group.
Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images
Points out of 1000: 501.5
Croatia has had trouble reaching their potential over the past four years.
Their talented side missed out on the 2010 World Cup and were eliminated in the group stage of Euro 2012 (though they were in the same group as the two finalists).
Can Croatia turn this pattern around and make it to and excel in Brazil?
Friedemann Vogel/Getty Images
Points out of 1000: 528.5
For as much as fans of England are dissatisfied with their team and their style, they are a model of consistency.
The team has made it to major tournament after major tournament, making it through the group in most of them.
However, the English are in some trouble in their World Cup qualifying group, trailing Montenegro with Poland and Ukraine hot on their heels.
Claudio Villa/Getty Images
Points out of 1000: 534.1
After a poor campaign at the 2010 World Cup, Italy responded with a great Euro 2012 that saw them get to the final.
The Italians' good performances in qualifying campaigns has them as definite sleepers for the World Cup in Brazil.
Jasper Juinen/Getty Images
Points out of 1000: 534.5
Portugal have been quite good at major tournaments, only having been eliminated by a historic Spanish side over the past four years. In fact, they almost took Spain down at Euro 2012, only going out on penalties.
However, the Portuguese have been awful in qualifying, getting through to each tournament in playoffs.
This doesn't look like it's going to change soon, as they are in trouble in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.
As a result, the Portuguese are losing ground quickly and could be passed by Italy very soon.
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images
Points out of 1000: 540.4
Argentina has been good over the past year, racking up numerous wins in friendlies and dominating South American World Cup qualifying.
However, the Argentinians are held back by their poor record at major tournaments over the past four years.
A 4-0 destruction at the hands of Germany in the 2010 World Cup quarterfinals and another quarterfinal finish in a Copa America they hosted are tough pills to swallow for a team that has such great talent.
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Points out of 1000: 568.3
Holland's team has had an interesting four years.
The Dutch came so close to finally breaking through at a World Cup, yet fell in extra time of the final to one of the best international teams in history.
Just two years later, the Netherlands lost every match at Euro 2012.
The side is stacked with talent and has dominated qualifying whenever they could.
However, it is worth questioning what Netherlands will show up in Brazil.
Friedemann Vogel/Getty Images
Points out of 1000: 571.5
Brazil is absolutely rife with talent, but they have continually come up short on the big stages over the past decade.
As the Brazilians are already qualified for the 2014 World Cup as hosts, they are hoping to turn these poor results around on home soil.
Christopher Lee/Getty Images
Points out of 1000: 602.2
Has the German revolution begun?
The Bundesliga took over the Champions League this year, with Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund both making it to the final.
Further, the huge talent at the national team has them gaining ground toward No. 1.
Germany will be looking toward the final stages of the World Cup in Brazil, hoping for their team to come through this time and come good on all their promise.
Scott Heavey/Getty Images
Points out of 1000: 648.9
There is absolutely no doubt at No. 1.
Spain holds both the World Cup and Euro trophies, riding their beautiful brand of football to each of the past three major trophies.
Yes, they have had a few losses along the way, but this Spanish side has to go down as one of the best in the history of the game.
How long can they keep this amazing run going?