Football: Rise in rankings may not aid England's World Cup cause

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The Independent Online
England have risen to sixth place in the latest Fifa world rankings, but, as David Anderson reports, that may not be enough to earn them a seeding in the World Cup draw.

The Football Association said yesterday that it is too early to tell if England's new high in the world rankings will help them in their bid to be seeded in the World Cup finals.

England are sixth, which is their best position since the standings began. But the FA spokesman, Steve Double, said they do not yet know what factors Fifa will use to decide the seeds for next summer's finals.

"It's very encouraging to see that England's progress on the field has been recognised," he said. "But it still depends on the criteria Fifa decide to use, which on past form counts more on previous World Cup record."

The goalless draw in Rome last month, which secured England their place in France 98 was the decisive result in the latest rankings. The climb to sixth is a rise of one position from last month and completes an impressive surge of six places since January this year.

Brazil remain top, but Germany have switched places with Spain to go second overall. The remaining two countries above England are Euro 96 finalists Czech Republic and Romania, who won nine out of 10 matches in qualifying for the World Cup place. England are now ahead of France, who are seventh, Denmark, who are down two places to eighth, and Italy, 10th. The most impressive surge in the rankings comes from Yugoslavia, who earned 4.17 points for their World Cup play-off defeat of Hungary.

World Cup seedings will not be determined by the rankings alone, but a high placing can be a factor, and Hoddle will be delighted to have seemingly cemented a place in the top 10.

Scotland have slumped to 36th despite qualifying for France 98. In the Scots' only fixture since they went through as the best group runner-up, they lost 2-1 to France, but Brown's team again impressed. That Scotland have dropped 11 places since last month's ranking of 25 is primarily a result of the success of others.

The Scots are now below the United States, the hosts of 1994 World Cup finals, who are 29th after clinching their place in next summer's tournament. Brown is unlikely to be unduly concerned, having achieved his goal of taking Scotland to another major finals.

The Republic of Ireland's narrow failure to join the Scots after losing to Belgium in the play-offs is reflected in a drop of two places to 45th.

Northern Ireland, whose poor form led to the dismissal of their manager, Bryan Hamilton, are 83rd. They are 19 places below their January rating of 64th and find themselves behind the likes of Togo, Oman, Uzbekistan and Senegal.

Wales have been below such countries for some time and their manager, Bobby Gould, will be relieved to learn they have cemented their position at 98th, the same as last month.

There has been movement around them and while Wales are now officially stronger than Uganda they have been overtaken by Indonesia, and Vietnam's are now only 12 places behind them.