Football Features

Every major nation’s highest and lowest FIFA ranking since records began

By Chris Smith

Published: 18:07, 2 September 2019

Due to their failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, as well as other poor results, Italy dropped to 21st in the Fifa World Rankings last August.

That represented their lowest position since the rankings began back in 1992 and is a considerable drop for a team which has led the way on four different occasions.

But Italy, who have now risen back into the top 20, aren’t the only major footballing nation to have suffered a huge drop in the Fifa rankings and, with that in mind, we have taken a look at every footballing powerhouse’s lowest and highest point since records began.

France

Current ranking: 3rd

Highest ranking: 1st (May 2001 – May 2002)

Lowest ranking: 27th (September 2010)

Starting with the reigning world champions, it hasn’t always been so rosy for Les Bleus.

In both Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup, France went out at the group stage and failed to win in any of their six games across both tournaments. Not only that, in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, France struggled immensely and finished second in their group to Serbia and had to qualify via the playoffs.

All of this lead to a massive slump in their Fifa World Ranking position and they fell all the way down to 27th – France have only re-established themselves as a consistent top 10 nation since reaching the Euro 2016 final.

Belgium

Current ranking: 1st

Highest ranking: 1st (November 2015 – March 2016, September 2018 – present)

Lowest ranking: 71st (June 2007)

Belgium enjoyed their best ever World Cup performance last summer, beating England to finish third, and now sit atop the world rankings at present, just 20 points ahead of Brazil.

However, before this golden generation of star players, it was anything but plain sailing for the Red Devils. Back in June 2007, having not qualified for a major tournament since the 2002 World Cup, Belgium plummeted to a miserable 71st in the world.

That doesn’t appear to be something they will have to worry about again, though, with the likes of Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku leading the Belgian charge.

Brazil

Current ranking: 2nd

Highest ranking: 1st (8 occasions spanning 159 editions)

Lowest ranking: 22nd (June 2013)

Current world No.2 and the perennial world No.1, it may come as a surprise to many that even Brazil have had major struggles in the Fifa World Rankings.

However, in 2013, following a quarter-final exit from the Copa America, Brazil dropped as low as 22nd in the world. Of course, that was not helped by the fact that they qualified for the 2014 World Cup as hosts and didn’t have a great deal of competitive football during that period – a Confederations Cup win soon had them flying back up the ladder.

Croatia

Current ranking: 7th

Highest ranking: 3rd (January 1999)

Lowest ranking: 125th (March 1994)

The current World Cup runners-up and world No.7, Croatia are a bit of an enigma when it comes to international football.

Croatia only became independent from Yugoslavia in June 1991, with its football team actually playing its first match against the USA in 1990. Croatia eventually gained admission into UEFA in June 1993, but that was too late for them to enter the 1994 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, as these already kicked off the year before. The team’s matches before Croatia’s official independence were not recorded by FIFA, so they entered the World Rankings way down in 125th place.

However, with a third-place finish at the 1998 World Cup and a runner-up spot last summer, Croatia have been as high as third in the world and are now considered one of the strongest nations in modern football.

Uruguay

Current ranking: 5th

Highest ranking: 2nd (July 2011)

Lowest ranking: 55th (December 1998)

If Fifa World Rankings had existed when the World Cup first came into being, Uruguay would have certainly been one of the early powerhouses to dominate top spot, winning two of the first four World Cups in 1930 and 1950.

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Since then, however, Uruguay have struggled on the world’s biggest stage. Two fourth-place finishes, in 1970 and 2010, are the highlights of a period where they have generally gone out in the groups, first knockout round, or failed to qualify at all.

And in 1998, after a group stage exit in the Copa America and no World Cup qualification since 1990, La Celeste dropped as low as 55th.

England

Current ranking: 4th

Highest ranking: 3rd (August 2012)

Lowest ranking: 27th (February 1996)

Having failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup, England were automatically entered into Euro 96 as hosts. This lack of competitive football crippled the Three Lions’ world ranking, with them dropping as low as 27th in February 1996.

There have been high points in the rankings for England and, after finishing fourth at Russia 2018, they currently sit fourth in the world jumping to their highest position for some time. However, under Roy Hodgson, England struggled to even make it into the top 10 – Gareth Southgate seems to be putting an end to those struggles.

Portugal

Current ranking: 6th

Highest ranking: 3rd (May–June 2010, October 2012, April–June 2014, September 2017 – April 2018)

Lowest ranking: 43rd (August 1998)

With players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Bernardo Silva in the current Portuguese squad, as well as the likes of Eusebio, Luis Figo and Deco turning out for European champions in the past, you would be forgiven for thinking that Portugal have always been a powerhouse of international football.

That, however, is simply not the case. After finishing third in the 1966 World Cup, Portugal only managed to qualify for one out of the next eight World Cups, Mexico in 1986 – their failure to qualify for the 1998 World Cup led to them falling as low as 43rd in the World Rankings in August of that year.

Spain

Current ranking: 9th

Highest ranking: 1st (July 2008 – June 2009, October 2009 – March 2010, July 2010 – July 2011, October 2011 – July 2014)

Lowest ranking: 25th (March 1998)

Before Spain dominated the world between 2008 and 2012, winning two European Championships and a World Cup, they were one of the ultimate underachievers in international football.

Apart from their 2010 World Cup success, La Roja have only made it past the quarter-final stage once, in 1950, and their group stage exit in the 1998 World Cup came at a time when they were as low as 25th in the world rankings.

Argentina

Current ranking: 10th

Highest ranking: 1st (March 2007, October 2007 – June 2008, July – October 2015, April 2016 – April 2017)

Lowest ranking: 24th (August 1996)

After winning the 1993 Copa America, Argentina only managed to make it to the quarter-final stage of the 1995 edition.

That followed a dismal 1994 World Cup, where they were humiliated in the group stages by Bulgaria and barely qualified for the knockout rounds, before being humbled in a 3-2 defeat to Romania in the round-of-16.

Post-1993 has been a series of failures and near misses for La Albiceleste as they have bounced between being No.1 in the world to dropping out of the top 10.

Germany

Current ranking: 15th

Highest ranking: 1st (December 1992 – August 1993, December 1993 – March 1994, June 1994, July 2014 – June 2015, July 2017, September 2017 – June 2018)

Lowest ranking: 22nd (March 2006)

A group-stage exit at the 2018 World Cup for Germany caused the 2014 world champions to suffer their biggest ever drop in the Fifa rankings, falling from first to 15th – an unusual low for a team that is considered to be the cornerstone of consistency on the international stage.

However, even this isn’t as low as Die Mannschaft have fallen in the past. Successive group stage exits from Euro 2000 and Euro 2004 saw them tumble down the rankings and, when they automatically qualified for the 2006 World Cup as hosts, that lack of competitive football compounded their position as the 22nd best team in the world – a third-place finish at that tournament did see them fly right back up to sixth, though.

The Netherlands

Current ranking: 16th

Highest ranking: 1st (August–September 2011)

Lowest ranking: 36th (August 2017)

The Oranje appear to be finally coming out of the slump they’d been stuck in since 2014. After finishing as runners-up and third-place at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups respectively, the Netherlands have failed to qualify for the last two major tournaments.

They finished a dismal fourth in their Euro 2016 qualifying group, suffering humiliating defeats to Iceland, Turkey and the Czech Republic, as well as conceding in both games against Kazakhstan, barely managing to beat them. And it didn’t get much better in their qualifying campaign for the 2018 World Cup, a 4-0 thrashing to France and an away defeat to Bulgaria were particular low points.

Those results saw them drop as low as 36th in the rankings, a terrible position for a three-time World Cup finalist. Back up to 16th now, the future appears bright once more for the men in Orange.

Italy

Current ranking: 16th

Highest ranking: 1st (November 1993, February 2007, April–June 2007, September 2007)

Lowest ranking: 21st (August 2018)

After being drawn in Group G with Spain, Italy only finished second when attempting to qualify for Russia 2018. The Azzurri drew Sweden in the playoff round and were expected to win comfortably.

However, they lost the first leg 1-0 and laboured to a 0-0 draw at home in the second leg, meaning they failed to qualify for a World Cup for the first time since 1958 and they plummeted to 21st in the rankings, their worst ever position.

Italy’s recent form has been slowly improving under Roberto Mancini and, despite moving up a place to 17th in the world rankings, there is still work to be done to restore this fallen giant back to the throne upon which it once stood.

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