Italy knock Brazil off No 1 as Scotland climb

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The Independent Football

Scotland were the biggest climbers among the home nations when Fifa released its latest world rankings yesterday, moving up to 20th place to equal their best standing since the ratings began in 1993. Italy have overtaken Brazil to hit the No 1 spot for the first time in more than 13 years.

The Scots had dropped as low as 88th two years ago, and were still in 62nd place last year, but their resurgence under Walter Smith in the qualifiers for Euro 2008 has propelled the rise.

England are unchanged in sixth place, Northern Ireland have fallen to 49th and Wales have dropped a place to 75th. The Republic of Ireland climbed three places to 46th.

Scotland sit top of their Euro 2008 group after four matches but yesterday's rankings emphasised the size of their task in qualifying under new manager Alex McLeish. Apart from Italy, who they play in Italy next month, they are also grouped with France (still ranked fourth in the world) and Ukraine (ranked 11th, up two places).

Scotland were last as high as 20th in November 2000, when Craig Brown was the manager. They have not qualified for a major tournament since the 1998 World Cup in France.