The validity of FIFA's rankings can oftentimes be quite questionable, but if nothing else, those rankings are there to give us a general idea of each country's outlook as we prepare for the all-important World Cup draw.
Beyond determining the countries in Pot 1, which features host Brazil as well as the seven top-ranked teams as of September, the world rankings don't exactly hold any real importance. So if you want to ignore them when filling out your World Cup bracket, that's perfectly fine.
And in some aspects, that's probably actually best.
Nevertheless, it can be intriguing—and often telling—to see where each country is ranked relative to the other squads in its pot, and soon enough, relative to the other squads in its group.
Here's a look at where each of the 32 qualifiers stand before the draw, courtesy of FIFA.
|Pre-Draw: World Cup Pots and FIFA Rankings|
|Pot 1 (FIFA Ranking)||Pot 2 (FIFA Ranking)||Pot 3 (FIFA Ranking)||Pot 4 (FIFA Ranking)|
|Spain (1)||Chile (15)||United States (14)||Portugal (5)|
|Germany (2)||Ivory Coast (17)||Mexico (20)||Italy (7)|
|Argentina (3)||Ecuador (23)||Costa Rica (31)||Netherlands (9)|
|Colombia (4)||Ghana (24)||Honduras (41)||Greece (12)|
|Uruguay (6)||Algeria (26)||Iran (45)||England (13)|
|Switzerland (8)||Nigeria (36)||Japan (48)||Croatia (16)|
|Brazil (10)||Cameroon (51)||Korea Republic (54)||France (19)|
|Belgium (11)||Australia (59)||Bosnia and Herzegovina (21)|
|Note: One Pot 4 country will be drawn into Pot 2 (No group will have three UEFA representatives, though).|
Here's how the groups eventually shook out:
Rankings to Ignore
Brazil, No. 10
Brazil is, for all intents and purposes, the poster child for why the FIFA rankings shouldn't be taken too seriously.
Sure, the Selecao have disappointingly been knocked out of the last two World Cups in the quarterfinals, and they may not yet resemble the legendary squads of old, but let's not kid ourselves. There is no way this is the 10th-best team in the world.
It is young, but with World Cup-winning manager Luiz Felipe Scolari, it is continuing to get better, which was abundantly clear when it destroyed Spain last June to win the Confederations Cup. Moreover, with an explosive attacking corps that features Neymar, Hulk and Oscar, among others, Brazil will be incredibly dangerous up front.
The hosts are the perennial favorites, but even if the World Cup was somewhere else, they would be legitimate contenders.
Belgium, No. 11
By way of a draw to Wales in World Cup qualifying and two-straight friendly defeats to Columbia and Japan, Belgium dropped six spots in the most recent rankings. But don't be fooled, this is still a team with Top 10 talent in the world.
From Eden Hazard to Romelu Lukaku to Marouane Fellaini to Thomas Vermaelen to Vincent Kompany to Simon Mignolet (just to name a few), the Red Devils are stacked with players currently making significant impacts in the world's most competitive leagues right now.
Belgium didn't qualify for the last two World Cups, but Marc Wilmots' squad has depth and talent at every level of the pitch. This is a real squad to pay attention to, despite the recent underwhelming play and No. 11 ranking.
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