England arrived in Poland this afternoon as the fourth best team in Europe, having moved up one place to sixth in the latest FIFA World Rankings.
Along with Argentina (seventh) and Denmark (ninth), England benefit from a five-place slump by Portugal, now in tenth place. Spain are first but Germany drop into third, slipping behind Uruguay. Brazil are now fifth, completing the top ten that I’ve outlined in almost the worst order possible.
England’s UEFA Euro 2012 Group D opponents’ fortunes have varied, with France up two past Ivory Coast and Greece into 14th, Sweden staying in 17th and Ukraine down two into 52nd. We’ll presumably be winning the group, then? Amazing what a string of 1-0 victories will do for a team – I can almost see what Alex McLeish was getting at.
Of England’s nearest neighbours, the Republic of Ireland are settled between Sweden and Mexico in 18th, Wales have jumped three spots into 38th (but are quickly being caught by Scotland, who are up seven into 41st) and Northern Ireland are – hang on, I’m just scrooooooolling down the list – 103rd, behind Sudan but above Guyana.
With qualifying for FIFA World Cup 2014 now bearing down upon us, I think it’s time to include England’s opponents here. As well as Ukraine (still 52nd), England will face Montenegro (50th), Poland (60th), Moldova (140th) and famously rubbish San Marino, joint bottom of the pile (206th) with Monserrat and Turks & Caicos Islands.
The big movers at the bottom of the table are Andorra, up to 199th. And if you’re wondering how all of this meaningless guff is calculated, FIFA is your friend.