Sherifdeen Olamilekan writes,

FIFA Men’s World Ranking is a ranking system for men’s national football teams of FIFA; the world’s governing football organization. In the rankings, best teams are ranked according to their game outcomes, with the highest ranked teams being placed at the top.

In December 1992, FIFA World rankings were first introduced, and eight teams, which were at the top, were Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain. And so far, Brazil have held the table’s number one spot for the longest time. 

But again, even despite Argentina’s heavy victory at the just concluded World Cup tournament alongside their pre-World-Cup record 36-match unbeaten streak altogether with their most recent triumphs at both Copa America and Finalissima, it has caught every football enthusiast, most especially their fans, by surprise that it’s Brazil who hold the top position in the just released FIFA World Ranking.

Now, making things clear, the reason as to why Argentina isn’t first isn’t far-fetched. One thing that must be first understood before jumping on judgments whenever the ranking is updated is to go back tp the criteria formulated and used by FIFA to rank these teams. 

The scoring for all full international matches that FIFA recognizes is determined using a points system. But over time, numerous changes have been made to the system in response to complaints that the previous methodology did not accurately reflect the relative strengths of the national teams. One is the Elo rating system used in chess which has, however, been incorporated into the FIFA ranking system’s current iteration from August 16, 2018.

Another hidden criterion is that while ranking teams, FIFA maintains that the FIFA World rankings provide “a valid metric for comparing national A-teams” and are used to rate the development and existing skill of the national football teams of its member nations in the sense that teams with bigger histories automatically win some more points. FIFA also deploy this same approach in the computation or, in most cases, as the sole basis for seeding tournaments.

In 2018, FIFA included, among the already existing criteria, another new version of the World Ranking called “SUM,” which relies on addition and subtraction of points won or lost for a game to or from the prior point totals rather than averaging game points over a specified period of time. Also tagged along this system is that the number of games a club has won and how “important” those wins were, such as in big tournaments or against tough opponents, would be among the deployed criteria.

Referencing this, one would notice that Cameroon gained 28.86 points to move up 10 places solely because of their lone group-stage one-nil win against Brazil. This explains that if Cameroon’s lone win had come against a lowly ranked side, they would not have gained as many points.

Why Argentina Aren’t First despite Continuous Victories 

The first key reason is that among the FIFA rules, there’s an indication that a win inside regular time only counts more than a win in extra time or penalties. But Argentina won two of their games, after the group stage, on penalties at the World Cup, the same thing which happened in their Copa America’s show.

Also, FIFA stipulates that just like a win against a highly ranked side births many points, a loss against a lowly ranked side leads to a dire and massive loss of points. That is why Messi’s side grossly lost a total of 39 points as regarding their World Cup opening game’s 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia. After the surprise defeat, Argentina’s other results helped them recover and eventually gain 64.5 points to move up to second place.

Although Brazil were first when coming into the World Cup, they dropped points against Cameroon but their elimination which was in form of a penalty shootout loss to last World Cup’s runner-up Croatia did not detriment them much and their other fine results allowed them limit and escape their mischance to a minimal loss of 0.53 points.

In the end, Argentina are now 2.9 points behind Brazil, ranking second with  1,838.88 while Brazil stands in the first position with 1, 840.77 points. Belgium ranked third with 1,774 points as France and England hold the fourth and fifth positions respectively.

In conclusion, while FIFA rankings aren’t tickets for the next tournaments’ qualification as illustrated most notably with Italy, whose national squad, which finished sixth before the World Cup didn’t later qualify for it, it keeps serving as rare documentations of national teams efforts regardless of medals and trophies remunerations.

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