LISBON PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 17: Fernando Torres of Spain walks with the ball during the International Friendly match between Portugal and Spain at the Estadio da Luz on November 17 2010 in Lisbon Portugal. Spain lost the match 4-0. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)

Spain Finishes Year On Top Of FIFA Rankings, US Leaps To 18th

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Spain Finishes Year On Top Of FIFA Rankings, US Leaps To 18th

They don't matter, but they're still fun to track, provided they're not bought.1 Qatar did drop on spot to 114. Maybe that's just to throw us off the scent? Regardless, let's just let our minds go, not worry about significance or method, and look at December 2010's FIFA World Ranking (there's a corporate sponsor in here, but I'm trying to cut back on my soda intake).

Spain remains on top followed by the Netherlands and then, off in the distance, the duo of Germany and Brazil. Another gap an you'll find Argentina at five, then the cloister of England, Uruguay, Portugal, France and Egypt. Croatia rounds out the top ten.

The only confederations without representation in the top 10 are CONCACAF, AFC, and OFC. The highest ranked team from CONCACAF (the North America, Central America, and Caribbean region) is the United States, whose ranking of 18 is nine places ahead of rival Mexico. In Asia (AFC), Australia ranks 26th, three spots ahead of Japan, while in Oceania (OFC), New Zealand is ranked 63rd.

RankNov '10NationPts
1 1 Spain 1887 (-33)
2 2 Netherlands 1723 (+5)
3 4 Germany 1485 (-4)
4 3 Brazil 1446 (-47)
5 5 Argentina 1338 (-15)
6 6 England 1195 (-55)
7 7 Uruguay 1152 (-22)
8 8 Portugal 1090 (-12)
9 10 Egypt 1078 (+31)
10 9 Croatia 1075 (-23)
11 11 Greece 1016 (-27)
12 12 Norway 995 (-9)
13 13 Russia 982 (-21)
14 14 Italy 965 (-30)
15 16 Chile 950 (+21)
16 17 Ghana 908 (+5)
17 15 Slovenia 897 (-61)
18t 24 United States 867 (+20)
18t 21 France 867 (+15)
20 18 Slovakia 854 (-12)

FIFA's rankings are a lot like those of tennis and golf. You're given credit for accomplishments over a given time span (for soccer, it's six years), more recent results are giving more weight, and the bigger to competition on the bigger stage, the more points you have to gain. Beat Spain yesterday at a World Cup would give you a huge jump, while a win over San Marino (tied for the bottom spot) six years ago has almost no relevance.

Amongst the top 20, the big movers are the States, jumping six spots. You have to drop all the way down to Bosnia and Herzegovina at 44 before you see more ordinal improvement. The United States' point gain (20) was, however, eclipsed by the likes of Egypt (+31) and Chile (+21), amongst teams above our Bosnia-Herzegovina line. The United States will face Chile in January, Egypt in February.

Looking at the top 20 list, one thing that jumps out: lack of movement. Only four teams on the list moved more than one spot, and they're the bottom four. While it makes sense that it's harder to climb (or drop) places at the top of the list, where the differences between spots is greater), the stoic nature of the ranking give a top 20 list little value.

Let's look at the biggest gainers and biggest droppers, and let's take it a step farther. Let's look by region:

By Rank
RegionBiggest GainBiggest Loss
AFC Indonesia (127, +8) Maldives (162, -16)
CAF Botswana (53, +14) Eitrea (177, -12)
CONCACAF Cuba (62, +32) Guyana (109, -23)
CONMEBOL Ecuador (53, +8) Peru (68, -16)
OFC Vanuatu (167, +5) Fiji (152, -9)
UEFA Liechtenstein (148, +10) Lithuania (55, -9)

FIFA's World Rankings come out monthly, with the next installment scheduled to be released on January 12, 2011.

1 - I admit, I'm pandering. My thoughts on the matter are closer to these, but I'm definitely keeping my ears open. But c'mon. It's just FIFA rankings. Can't a guy use his governing body corruption material?

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