Our antidote to the infamous rankings

          Playmaker’s alternative FIFA world rankings

          2020/11/16 15:53
          By Connor Andrews

          Famous for greatest hits such as ‘Switzerland are the third-best team in the world’ and ‘there’s only one side in international football better than Sweden’ the FIFA World Rankings have always been a point of ridicule.

          Continually accused of overvaluing friendlies and qualifiers, FIFA’s algorithms had an update in 2018, but still raise many eyebrows with their final standings.

          And with the best in the world baton that was long-shared between Germany and Spain now being passed on to another two European countries, now’s as good a time as ever to question the final rankings, based not just on results, but the quality of players, coaches, and respective leagues.

          10th: Netherlands

          ©Getty / JOHN THYS
          15th in Fifa’s rankings, Netherlands could have been even higher in ours if it wasn’t for a disastrous recent coaching change. Ronald Koeman seemed to be building something very special as Netherlands coach, playing maybe the most attractive and free-flowing football in the international game. However, his choice to join Barcelona was doomed from the start, as was the decision to replace him with Frank de Boer.

          After horrendous spells with Inter and Crystal Palace, de Boer looked done as a top-level coach, but he’s been given another chance with the Netherlands, and after a worrying start, some positive signs are starting to appear.

          Stacked with talent from numerous superb academies such as Ajax, Feyenoord and PSV's, the Netherlands on their day can look unstoppable with Virgil van Dijk at the back, Memphis Depay up top, and Frenkie De Jong in midfield, and if it wasn’t for the coach they could at least be aspiring towards the final four of an international tournament, and could well still do similar with de Boer.

          9th: Norway

          ©Getty / STIAN LYSBERG SOLUM
          43rd in the FIFA World Rankings but boldly in the top 10 in ours, Norway have more than enough supplementing the machine that is Erling Braut Håland and cause a big upset at an international tournament.

          Those up to date with Norway saw this revolution coming, but they didn’t expect it to be this far ahead of schedule with not just Håland emerging as one of the best centre forwards in the world, but plenty of other headline-making youngsters.

          Martin Ødegaard was arguably La Liga’s best midfielder last season at Real Sociedad, while many are expecting Alexander Sørloth to become a star at Leipzig after a big season in Turkey.

          There’s also 22-year-olds Jens Hauge at Milan and Kristoffer Ajer at Celtic who look like stars in the making, complemented by a string of other emerging talents, and on top of that the team keeps on picking up big results as they continue doing enough to support Håland and allow him to be the difference-maker.

          8th: Brazil

          ©Getty / MAURO PIMENTEL
          Unlike Fifa’s eighth-placed and deeply troubled Argentina who make it nowhere near our top 10, third-placed Brazil maintain their place after finally finding some stability in their line-up.

          Now in his fourth year as coach, Tite’s already decent squad has been bolstered by the Spanish arrivals of Diego Carlos (Sevilla), Renan Lodi (Atletico), Vinicius Jr and Rodrygo (both Real Madrid), and a huge squad turnover seems to be gluing together so far.

          The 2019 Copa America champions have found consistency by complimenting Neymar with the Premier League trio of Gabriel Jesus, Richarlison and Roberto Firmino always returning to the squad seamlessly, and while the defence and midfield might not scream ‘world class’ it’s certainly above average, backstopped by two of the best goalkeepers in the world in Alisson and Ederson.

          Winning another World Cup might still be far off for this Brazil team, but they’re still miles better than the 7-1 side, and have found the kind of stability that can be crucial in tournaments where few teams ever really shine.

          7th: Senegal 

          ©Getty / picture alliance
          The highest Fifa ranked African team sitting 21st in their list, 2019 African Cup of Nations finalists Senegal dip into our top 10 with a continually improving team.

          Disappointed to lose last years final to Algeria, Senegal are clearly on the up, with one of the biggest superstars their country has ever seen in the form of Sadio Mane, beginning to be complemented by some serious talent, on top of one of the most exciting coaches in international football, Aliou Cisse.

          Eduoard Mendy in goal is showing his class at Chelsea, while Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly continues to be one of the highest-rated centre backs in the game.

          There’s young talent in the form of Ismaïla Sarr, and consistency in the shape of Cheikhou Kouyaté, showing that last year’s final was far from a one-off, with more expected at next year’s tournament ahead of pushing for knockout rounds at future World Cups.

          6th: England

          ©Getty / John Berry
          Things haven’t exactly gone swimmingly for England after their 2018 World Cup semi-final appearance, losing their place in the UEFA Nations League finals with defeat to Belgium last time out, but it shouldn’t distract from the vast quality in a squad that Fifa rank as the fourth-best team in the world.

          Harry Kane has been the best player in Europe to start the season, and he’s got plenty to back him up in the form of Jadon Sancho, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish.

          The squad is better than 2018 talent-wise, but some nerves are starting to appear over whether Gareth Southgate is the man to take England forward, despite the highs of two years ago.

          Nevertheless, on talent alone, England have one of the best squads in world football, whether they can make the most of that on the international stage remains to be seen.

          5th: Belgium

          ©Getty / Soccrates Images
          Currently first in Fifa's rankings, Belgium might be the most recognisable team outside of England in international football, with a line-up often composed of a starting XI of some of the Premier Leagues’ most recent best players.

          Of those greats, Romelu Lukaku has hit the ground running at Inter, while Thibaut Courtois is now Real Madrid’s best player, but conversely, teammate Eden Hazard is struggling in the Spanish capital.

          Hazard’s loss of form is also a huge blow for Belgium, as is Jan Vertonghen’s, while again the flipside is improvements elsewhere, with Kevin De Bruyne and Axel Witsel often running the show from midfield in their respective leagues.

          Belgium still have enough weapons to challenge at major tournaments, but for the first time in years, this could be the first time they’ve regressed, rather than progressed.

          4th: Italy

          ©Getty / Claudio Villa
          With one of, if not the best, coaches in international football, Roberto Mancini’s Italy move firmly into our top 10 from their lowly Fifa ranking of 12th. Without a loss in their last 21 games and 16 wins in that time, Italy are arguably international football’s in-form team and continue keeping clean sheets alongside some fantastic goalscoring form.

          Players who are stars in Serie A but perhaps not so well known outside of Italy continue making waves for the national team, with the likes of Torino’s Andrea Belotti and Sassuolo’s Domenico Berardi perhaps being aged out of high-profile club transfers, but they continue to provide for both their club and national side.

          On top of that they have some of the best young defensive talents in the game right now in Gigi Donnarumma (Milan), Alessandro Bastoni (Inter), Luca Pellegrini (Genoa) and Davide Calabria (Milan) showing that while it might be early, it might be sooner than expected before Italy start challenging for quarters and semi-finals of major tournaments.

          3rd: Germany

          ©Getty / Maja Hitij
          Unlike Spain, the side who dominated international football with them for a decent spell between 2008-2014, Germany seem to have got their act together after some time off, while Spain are nowhere near our list despite being sixth in the FIFA World Rankings, with Germany down in a shocking 14th.

          Germany finally have what they didn’t during their years of excellence, a world-class centre forward in Timo Werner, and with speed demons Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sane beside him, things could start getting very scary indeed for opposition defences come the next tournament.

          They have one of the best goalkeeping tandems of any country going with Marc-Andre ter Stegen pushing a back to his best Manuel Neuer, and have one of the most dominant midfielders in the game in Leon Goretzka so despite a pretty huge turnover from their 2014 World Cup winning squad, Germany have undoubtedly refreshed their squad enough to repeat those highs.

          2nd: Portugal

          Current reigning European and UEFA Nations League champions, Portugal haven’t looked back since Eder gifted them the unlikeliest of extra-time winners in the 2016 Euro final against France, and have since pumped new life into their squad at an extraordinary rate, which moves them from 5th in the Fifa rankings, to second in ours.

          Bruno Fernandes has emerged as one of the best midfielders in the world, while Joao Felix and Diogo Jota have started their respective leagues as two of the best attackers in the division, and there’s a constant influx of youth coming through even below that with the likes of Trincao and Pedro Neto.

          Head coach Fernando Santos has barely been able to wipe the smile off his face since the 2016 win, and while a squad with this much quality looks well set to survive post-Cristiano Ronaldo, there’s no sign their top scorer will be retiring soon, at least before the next two big tournaments.

          1st: France

          ©Getty / FRANCK FIFE
          The reigning world champions continue to set the standard, putting in controlled wins, and outscoring their opponents whenever it’s required and jump a place from second in the Fifa rankings, to first in Playmaker's. The issue is though for Didier Deschamps, is what’s happening to his players back at their clubs.

          It’s not just Paul Pogba who’s having a hard time, Olivier Giroud is nowhere near starting for Chelsea where N’Golo Kante is also having issues, while two other vital players, Antoine Griezmann and Clement Lenglet, are having a torrid time at crisis club Barcelona.

          So far it appears to be having little effect on their national form, and almost seems to be improving it, but that could wear down by next summer. However, the factory just keeps producing high-end players, with a constant stream of top-class center-backs emerging like Joules Kounde at Sevilla, and forwards popping up like Marcus Thuram and Alassane Plea at Gladbach, it’s hard to see France not being favourites at any tournament as long as the main men don’t breakdown

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