FIFA Ranking and Qatar 2022: Is There A Real Link?

FIFA Ranking and Qatar 2022
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Published on 2 Oct 2022 1:58 pm (UK Time)

Now more than ever, in the current global football scenario, it seems that the FIFA Ranking is little or not representative of the performance of the national teams in the major World Championships. And above all, it does not give any indication of the actual form of the teams preparing to face the Qatar 2022 World Cup in just over a month.

For instance, let’s look at this table’s top position. Brasil, firmly at the top of the FIFA Ranking with 1841 points, has not played a World Cup final for 20 years. Of course, we might truly argue that they won last America’s Cup in 2019, but what are the real antagonists, apart from Messi’s Argentina, Uruguay and (lately) Chile? Belgium occupies second place with 1817 points. In the FIFA Ranking, however, Spain is only seventh with 1715 points, a long way from Belgium, second at 1817 points. Yet, given the remarkable rise of Belgian football, it seems like they have never gone beyond outstanding performances and a semi-final qualification at Russia 2018, but nothing more.

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Luis Enrique and his Spain

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It is interesting to report the point of view of Luis Enrique, Spain‘s coach, after the last Nations League games, which are often considered a hindrance for many clubs, which frequently lose key players in the crucial moment of the season. The Spanish manager was involved in strong disputes over low performances, particularly after the defeat against Switzerland. So Enrique went on and shared the performance data in official competitions: Le Furias Rojas, in the last two years, has been the only team to reach the Nations League Final four twice, with a Euro 2020 semi-final lost and a smooth qualification for the next Qatar World Cup. Nonetheless, they remain seventh in the FIFA Ranking, far from Belgium

European league risks being penalized

Furthermore, the imbalance between the competitiveness of the European league compared to that of other continents is also quite evident. Just have a look at the world competitions. At the 2018 World Cup in Russia, only two nations of the American continent reached the round of eight. Uruguay and Brazil, against six European countries: England, Sweden, Russia, Croatia, France and Belgium. Even places allocated for the qualification for the World Cup, dictated by the needs for representation and inclusiveness, as well as the economic need to spread the practice of football globally, do not take into account the greater competitiveness of the European group.

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 But then, does it really make sense to have a global classification like FIFA, without considering the profound structural differences that characterize the individual continental leagues? Thus, on the other hand, even the non-qualification of the reigning European Champion Italy at the World Championship in Qatar 2022 risks taking a back seat, given the sixth place in the World occupied by Roberto Mancini’s team. Appreciating the perfectly legitimate need to discourage bias and geographical discrimination, what happens to the actual technical value of the teams? 

England is fifth with new FIFA formula

The most recent form of calculation seems to have reached a greater consensus, but however perfectible, it cannot get a completely satisfactory level. The method named after the physics professor who invented it, the Hungarian Arpad Elo, adds or removes points depending on the final outcome of any match. The formula also takes into account the importance of the game expressed through a progressive coefficient (ranging from a minimum of 5 to a maximum of 60 for a match in the knockout phase of the World Cup) or even the final result. 

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Not to mention the current scenario of modern football which moves on quickly. The two Euro 2020 finalists, who just 15 months ago were considered at the top of the World, are sailing in troubled waters. Italy is out of the World Cup after competing for first place with a formidable opponent like Switzerland, while England finished last in the Nations League group, relegating to League B. With such a situation, serious concerns are raised about whether England is ready for Qatar 2022 or not, where until a year ago, Gareth Southgate was clearly among the favourites.

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