World Cup: Teams make mockery of flawed FIFA rankings

WHATEVER the result in Belo Horizonte tomorrow morning, England will be leaving the World Cup following its final Group D game against surprise group leader Costa Rica.

Either Italy or Uruguay will also be out of the tournament after their match in Natal, with only one progressing to the final 16.

All three sides are in the top 10 of the FIFA rankings, and with No.1 ranked side Spain already out and Portugal, ranked fourth, also in danger of missing out on qualifying for the next stage, the controversial ranking system has again come into focus.

Already in this World Cup we have seen 28th-ranked Costa Rica beat both Uruguay (7th) and Italy (9th), while Switzerland, which FIFA says is the sixth-best team in the world, has been thrashed 5-2 by France, ranked 11 places below its alpine rival in 17th.

Of course there are always upsets in World Cup finals, but with three sides from the top 10 out of the tournament before the knockout stages, some might question whether FIFA has got it right.

Under the present system, points are awarded for results of all FIFA-recognised full international matches, with rankings based on a team's performance over the last four years (it was previously eight before the 2006 World Cup). That means more recent results and more significant matches are more heavily weighted to supposedly reflect the current competitive state of a team.

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The women's game uses an alternative system based on the World Football Elo ratings.

If FIFA used that system, Brazil would be on top of the rankings with Spain in seventh and England in 15th.

Australia would be at 41 in the world, while Switzerland, Uruguay and Italy would all be outside the top 10.

Given the results in Brazil, that certainly seems to be a more accurate guide.

Meanwhile, questions have also been asked about the future of England captain Steven Gerrard after the World Cup.

Gerrard, 34, insisted he needed time before making a decision over his international future.

"I am still hurting very bad, I'm broken from what's gone on over the last couple of weeks. I need to clear my head before I make that big decision," he said.

Hodgson suggested he would tinker with his team for the clash with Costa Rica, giving newcomers like Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana and Ross Barkley a chance to show what they could do.


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