FIFA World Cup

Ranking Every National Team in the World Ahead of the World Cup

Frank WagnerCorrespondent IJune 1, 2014

Ranking Every National Team in the World Ahead of the World Cup

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    Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press

    With less than two weeks to go until the first ball is kicked at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, interest in international football is reaching its quadrennial peak.

    For many casual fans of the beautiful game, the events of the past four years since Spain's victory in Soccer City may have gone virtually unnoticed.

    As a result, they may not know what to expect of their favorite national teams heading into the world's most famous sporting event.

    There is no better time, then, to update the Wagner World Rankings and order national teams based on their performances over the past four years.

    So sit back and enjoy these rankings of every national team in the world.

Methodology

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    Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

    For those of you who are new to these rankings and this system, let's break down the mathematical process that goes into it.

    To begin with, every match from the last four years is assigned a value based on its importance. For example, the World Cup final is given much more weight than a random friendly.

    The four-year window seems to be the perfect amount of time—a shorter period gives too small a sample size and a larger one would likely represent a different side.

    After every match is given a value and compiled, each team is assigned a score for every match based on four factors:

    • The result of the match
    • Whether the match was home, away or at a neutral venue
    • How strong the opposition was
    • How recently the match was played

    Finally, factoring in any matches a team missed out on (i.e. matches at World Cups they didn't qualify for) and giving every continental tournament a new weight produces a score out of 1,000 points.

    Every team is then ranked based on these points.

    One should note that this does not produce a ranking based on form alone.

    As a result, many teams may seem higher or lower in the rankings than one might expect because of drastic changes in form over relatively short periods of time.

    For example, performing well over a year may push a team up the table quickly, but relatively awful performances over the three years prior could hold the team back.

    Hence, it allows a ranking that factors in both form and consistency, a quality that is highly undervalued.

    So, without further ado, here are the latest rankings.

210-181

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    Francisco Seco/Associated Press
    Ranking NationPoints out of 1000
    210San Marino0
    210Bhutan0
    210Turks and Caicos Islands0
    207Cook Islands0.031
    206Tonga0.048
    205American Samoa0.051
    204 Papua New Guinea0.070
    203Samoa0.096
    202Montserrat0.183
    201Anguilla0.229
    200Fiji0.325
    199Vanuatu0.352
    198BruneiBrunei0.361
    197British Virgin Islands0.378
    196Macau0.465
    195Djibouti0.498
    194Cayman Islands0.650
    193East Timor Timor-Leste0.671
    192South SudanSouth Sudan0.743
    191Bahamas0.756
    190Mongolia0.826
    189Eritrea1.005
    188US Virgin Islands1.046
    187Somalia1.182
    186 Sri Lanka 1.619
    185Cambodia1.918
    184Aruba1.960
    183Bermuda2.054
    182Guam2.734
    181GibraltarGibraltar2.935

     

    Analysis

    The most notable team in this group is Gibraltar, who make their first entry into these rankings.

    With their entry into qualifying for the 2016 UEFA European Championships starting in September, the nation could no longer be ignored.

    What's more, draws with Slovakia and Estonia, two teams that are by no means the weakest in Europe, already have Gibraltar racing up the table.

    One other team to take note of is South Sudan, as this relatively new country also has the potential to move up the table quickly.

180-151

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    Eugenio Savio/Associated Press
    Ranking NationPoints out of 1000
    180Kyrgyzstan2.902
    179Comoros2.996
    178Solomon Islands3.026
    177 Sao Tome e Principe3.195
    176Barbados3.643
    175Dominica3.685
    174Seychelles4.154
    173Mauritius4.402
    172Nicaragua4.412
    171Curacao4.459
    170Madagascar4.593
    169Bangladesh5.384
    168Guinea-Bissau5.517
    167Yemen6.525
    166Chad7.447
    165Laos7.932
    164Swaziland8.757
    163 Puerto Rica9.157
    162St Lucia9.233
    161MauritaniaMauritania10.451
    160The Gambia11.741
    159Belize12.681
    158Chinese Taipei12.942
    157Andorra12.990
    156Tahiti12.998
    155New Caledonia15.902
    154Pakistan19.411
    153Turkmenistan20.294
    152 Faroe Islands23.595
    151St Kitts and Nevis24.092

     

    Analysis

    Rarely will one find a continental champion this low in the rankings, but Tahiti is a rare team.

    Since winning the 2012 OFC Nations Cup over New Caledonia, who themselves had shockingly eliminated juggernauts New Zealand, Tahiti has done very little.

    The minnows may have put on a spirited display at the Confederations Cup (while losing every match), but they put up very little resistance in regional World Cup qualifying.

150-121

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    John Cowpland/Associated Press
    Ranking NationPoints out of 1000
    150 Hong Kong24.137
    149Myanmar24.204
    148Maldives26.363
    147Suriname26.806
    146Nepal27.481
    145Grenada28.133
    144Afghanistan28.463
    143Central African Republic29.655
    142New Zealand34.554
    141Benin34.734
    140Vietnam35.314
    139Liechtenstein35.647
    138Syria35.821
    137St Vincent and the Grenadines37.117
    136Dominican Republic38.639
    135Palestine38.800
    134Tajikistan40.512
    133Malaysia41.985
    132India42.488
    131Haiti46.787
    130Cuba50.006
    129Cyprus50.876
    128Indonesia52.220
    127Guyana52.702
    126Equatorial Guinea53.257
    125Singapore56.147
    124Philippines56.768
    123Antigua and Barbuda60.632
    122Thailand61.139
    121Trinidad and Tobago62.230

     

    Analysis

    One team that might surprise at this low level is New Zealand, who have fallen quite a long way since the last update of these rankings.

    To understand this ranking, one need only look at the team's past two years of results, where they failed to win the OFC Nations Cup in a weak confederation and were pounded by a struggling Mexican side in the World Cup's intercontinental playoffs.

    Meanwhile, other teams in this group sit with great potential to rise up the table, such as Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago, but without the results to back up their potential.

120-91

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press
    Ranking NationPoints out of 1000
    120North Korea73.274
    119Saudi Arabia85.384
    118Bahrain89.238
    117United Arab Emirates89.297
    116Lesotho89.928
    115China92.189
    114Burundi92.401
    113Guatemala97.648
    112El Salvador99.545
    111Canada100.324
    110Malta100.509
    109Northern Ireland104.555
    108Luxembourg109.066
    107Liberia117.371
    106Lebanon119.544
    105Kuwait120.439
    104Rwanda127.829
    103Sierra Leone131.462
    102Republic of the Congo133.073
    101Namibia134.897
    100Niger155.853
    99Mozambique156.677
    98Tanzania157.711
    97Kazakhstan159.335
    96Guinea161.152
    95Malawi166.605
    94Botswana170.200
    93Oman171.841
    92Zimbabwe172.181
    91Gabon173.054

     

    Analysis

    Four years after adding some peculiar intrigue to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, North Korea have dropped quite a bit.

    After getting eliminated from World Cup qualifying early, the North Koreans' friendly form has dropped—something they have hung their hat on in recent years.

    Meanwhile, there are many African nations sprinkled in this group, all of which have struggled through their numerous qualifying campaigns over the past four years.

    Perhaps the most intriguing nations in this group, though, are Canada and El Salvador.

    With a good string of results, those two could easily burst into the top 100 and even higher in the next few months.

90-61

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    Armando Franca/Associated Press
    Ranking NationPoints out of 1000
    90Kenya174.156
    89Sudan187.485
    88Togo190.027
    87Jamaica190.265
    86Qatar197.811
    85 Cabo Verde198.548
    84Libya207.228
    83Senegal211.077
    82DR Congo214.487
    81Uganda219.724
    80Egypt223.519
    79Angola225.656
    78Iraq231.996
    77Cameroon236.656
    76Ethiopia241.886
    75Morocco260.335
    74Jordan262.242
    73South Africa267.787
    72Uzbekistan280.468
    71Latvia285.778
    70Macedonia288.312
    69Tunisia288.931
    68Mali291.284
    67Lithuania293.064
    66Estonia293.481
    65Moldova295.223
    64Wales299.074
    63Azerbaijan300.162
    62Panama306.302
    61Zambia306.427

     

    Analysis

    One look at this group of nations raises one obvious question: How are Cameroon, a team going to the World Cup, ranked so low?

    Looking at Cameroon's past four years provides the answer to that question. 

    The Africans have been wildly inconsistent and unstable, losing staples like Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Samuel Eto'o,who have since returned.

    After failing to qualify for either of the past two Africa Cup of Nations tournaments, Cameroon progressed out of their qualifying group for Brazil in large part thanks to a forfeit by Togo.

    Looking at the rest of the teams in this group, Mali have the chance to rise quickly, as their third-place finishes in each of the past two Africa Cup of Nations have been overshadowed by a disappointing World Cup qualifying campaign and a bad run of friendlies.

    A few good friendlies should push them back into the top 40.

60-31

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    SCOTT HEPPELL/Associated Press
    Ranking NationPoints out of 1000
    60Georgia306.427
    59Algeria309.194
    58Bolivia312.339
    57Albania312.791
    56Iceland315.938
    55Bulgaria316.293
    54Belarus326.659
    53Montenegro333.111
    52Israel334.604
    51Norway338.991
    50Armenia343.187
    49Finland343.726
    48Scotland344.895
    47 Burkina Faso 347.112
    46Slovenia354.774
    45Slovakia359.428
    44Iran361.070
    43Honduras364.940
    42Austria368.328
    41Hungary371.515
    40Peru374.303
    39Serbia374.406
    38Poland378.641
    37Venezuela380.118
    36Costa RicaCosta Rica391.615
    35Turkey391.979
    34Rep Ireland396.667
    33Paraguay397.937
    32Romania402.376
    31South Korea405.075

     

    Analysis

    This group of 30 teams offers up five more nations bound for Brazil, with Algeria pulling up the rear.

    Just like Cameroon, Algeria's inconsistencies have them as underdogs heading into the World Cup.

    Meanwhile, the 50s are filled with young, up-and-coming European nations who could pose a threat at Euro 2016, despite failing to qualify for the World Cup.

    The big anomaly of the group is Paraguay, who are still living off of their good performances in South Africa and the Copa America.

    I expected them to drop like a stone after finishing dead last in CONMEBOL's qualification group for Brazil, but it seems like they will hang on to a decent ranking until after the World Cup.

    Once that passes, though, don't be surprised if the Paraguayans are suddenly dead last among the South American nations.

30-21

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    Jend Dresling/Associated Press
    Rank NationScore out of 1000
    30Denmark413.925
    29Czech Republic414.451
    28Ukraine432.212
    27Nigeria445.662
    26Ivory Coast447.704
    25Sweden447.874
    24Australia449.635
    23Japan450.787
    22Ghana454.693
    21Ecuador464.562

     

    Analysis

    Even though these spots would logically be saved for the teams that qualified for the World Cup, four European nations that just missed out burst through.

    The highest ranked such team, Sweden, will probably be the most missed team in Brazil; Zlatan Ibrahimovic's side fell short in a playoff against Portugal due solely to Cristiano Ronaldo's brilliance.

    What may be the most debated ranking of these 10 is how low Ecuador came, as they are a popular sleeper pick to make a quarterfinal run in Brazil this month.

    However, Ecuador haven't won a competitive match outside of Ecuador since a World Cup qualifier in Bolivia...in 2009.

20-11

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    Darko Bandic/Associated Press
    Rank NationPoints out of 1000
    20Mexico465.560
    19Switzerland471.879
    18Bosnia-Herzegovina472.754
    17USA478.537
    16CroatiaCroatia484.150
    15Chile485.097
    14Belgium490.267
    13Greece491.134
    12France494.100
    11Colombia508.856

     

    Analysis

    Finally, a group of all teams headed for Brazil.

    While Mexico have been much-maligned since their atrocious qualifying campaign, many may have missed that they have gone seven matches unbeaten. Of course, questions still linger over which Mexican team will show up and whether they will be good enough to get through their difficult group.

    Switzerland may have a good chance of getting through their group in Brazil, but their terrible Euro 2012 qualifying campaign combined with the relative ease of their World Cup qualifying group are holding them back from going even further up this table.

    Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belgium and Colombia have all moved swiftly up the rankings thanks to their great runs over the past year or two.

    Greece's ability to consistently qualify for major tournaments and sometimes sneak out of groups have them ranked much higher than one might think.

    The USA, a side who are being written off by so many heading into Brazil, are less than a year removed from a fantastic run that saw them win 12 consecutive matches.

    Finally, Chile's ranking is a product of their streaky nature. While the South Americans seem to be the popular pick to come through their group after a decent run of form, this is the same squad that went on a five-match losing streak less than two years ago.

10. Russia

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    Armando Franca/Associated Press
    Rank NationPoint out of 1000
    10Russia518.491

     

    Analysis

    They may be one of the clear favorites to come through their group in Brazil, but that has not been good news for Russia in the recent past.

    Still, the Russians have been really impressive over the past few years, beating Portugal to the automatic qualifying spot and losing just three matches since February 2011.

    Watch out for Russia this month.

9. England

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    Matt Dunham/Associated Press
    Rank NationScore out of 1000
    9England533.875

     

    Analysis

    England are not a popular pick for a deep run in this year's World Cup, but the Three Lions have been so consistent over the past few years.

    Plus, with some young talent injecting speed into the side, England fans have a reason to dream heading into the tough test thrown up by their group.

8. Portugal

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    Francisco Seco/Associated Press
    Rank NationPoints out of 1000
    8PortugalPortugal534.234

     

    Analysis

    Heading into each of the past few major tournaments, Portugal have been taken lightly because of their poor runs in qualifying.

    Each time, though, Portugal has risen above and gotten through their group.

    One should write off the Portuguese at their own risk. After all, with the likes of Joao Moutinho, Nani and Fabio Coentrao, this side is more than just the genius of Cristiano Ronaldo.

7. Uruguay

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    Alberto Tao/Associated Press
    Rank NationPoints out of 1000
    7Uruguay536.455

     

    Analysis

    After finishing fourth in the 2010 World Cup and winning the 2011 Copa America, Uruguay seem like a natural pick for a deep run in Brazil.

    However, the South Americans' hopes hinge on the health of their main striker, Luis Suarez, with his knee surgery casting a doubt over their whole campaign.

    If Suarez plays, will he be 100 percent? If not, can Edinson Cavani and Diego Forlan step up in his stead?

    Lots of questions are left with this Uruguay squad, but they still have the potential to make a great run this month.

6. Italy

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    Fabrizio Giovannozzi/Associated Press
    Rank NationPoints out of 1000
    6ItalyItaly539.736

     

    Analysis

    Four years on from being eliminated in the group stage of a World Cup, Italy have regrouped well.

    The Azzurri played very well at Euro 2012, going out to Spain in the final, and they almost knocked off Spain in the Confederations Cup a year later.

    Now, Italy have their eyes set on an unlikely run at their fifth World Cup trophy.

    One thing's for certain, with Mario Balotelli, Andrea Pirlo and Gianluigi Buffon at their disposal, Italy will like their chances in a penalty shootout with anyone.

5. Netherlands

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    Peter Dejong/Associated Press
    Rank NationPoints out of 1000
    5NetherlandsNetherlands555.439

     

    Analysis

    With how much the Dutch have fallen out of the public favor over the past few years, it may be surprising to see them this high in the rankings. After all, they went out in Euro 2012 without picking up so much as a point.

    However, Netherlands are still reigning World Cup runner-up and have dominated major tournament qualifying campaigns over the past four years.

    In fact, since the debacle of 2012, the Dutch have just lost once—in a friendly to France.

    Rafael van der Vaart is a loss, but don't be surprised if Netherlands are back in the knockout stages this World Cup around.

4. Argentina

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    Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press
    Rank NationPoints out of 1000
    4ArgentinaArgentina560.000

     

    Analysis

    After more than a few underwhelming major tournament performances in a row, everyone wants to see Lionel Messi and Argentina rise up and challenge in Brazil this month.

    With the group these South Americans have been handed, there's a good chance we will be seeing them in the knockout stages. However, it's there where the questions lie.

    Can the Argentinians break through the quarterfinals once more? Will Messi finally reach the heights he has with Barcelona while playing for his nation?

3. Brazil

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    Hassan Ammar/Associated Press
    Rank NationPoints out of 1000
    3Brazil594.747

     

    Analysis

    Don't let this ranking deceive you: Brazil are the favorites to win the World Cup in their own backyard.

    This young side came into their own at the Confederations Cup last summer, and they should be a force to reckoned with when they're being cheered on by a raucous crowd.

    What this ranking reflects, though, is how inconsistent the Brazilians have been over the past four years.

    After all, they were taken out in the quarters of the 2010 World Cup by Netherlands and of the 2011 Copa America by Paraguay while losing friendlies to the likes of England, Mexico and Switzerland.

    It wouldn't be shocking if the Brazilians win the whole thing in July, but one should expect this squad to make it dramatic either way.

2. Germany

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    Alex Livesey/Getty Images
    Rank NationPoints out of 1000
    2Germany609.670

     

    Analysis

    After a disappointing end to Bayern Munich's Champions League campaign and a disastrous World Cup camp, expectations have been tempered in Germany for their national team heading into the 2014 World Cup.

    Maybe that's just what the Germans need.

    After two consecutive major tournaments in a row in which they faltered in the semifinals, Germany have the talent to go all the way this time.

    The only trouble is, they had the talent to get over that final hurdle in the past, too.

    Can a bit of bad luck help relieve the stress when the pressure inevitably mounts on this German side this time around?

    If so, expect them to be holding the trophy in July.

1. Spain

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    Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images
    Rank NationPoints out of 1000
    1SpainSpain646.462

     

    Analysis

    Spain are the reigning World Cup and two-time Euro champions.

    While that's already historic enough, the question over this side is whether they can pull off one more historic run to cement their legacy at the top of international football or if Father Time has finally caught up with them.

    Either way, Spain has earned the right to be considered number one until someone finally knocks them off their perch.

Conclusion

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    Sidali Djarboub/Associated Press

    So there it is, every international football nation ranked.

    One more disclaimer: One should keep in mind that the order of this ranking is not necessarily a prediction for how the teams will end up finishing, but merely a reflection of how well each team is currently playing and how good their results have been over the past four years.

    I hope you enjoyed them, but either way please give me feedback in the comments below. I do take suggestions and want to know if you think a team is not in the right spot. Most of the time, that's how these rankings get better.

     

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