FIFA new World rankings

Tim Groothuis/Witters Sport via USA TODAY SportsIt is admittedly difficult to accurately rank national soccer teams given the differences in schedules and gaps between major tournaments, but FIFA’s official world rankings for July are absolutely baffling.

To determine the ranking, FIFA calculates the number of points each team has earned over the last four years. A team earns points for winning or drawing matches, and the matches are weighted by importance (a win in the World Cup is more meaningful to the ranking than a win in a friendly, for example).

“A team’s total number of points over a four-year period is determined by adding:

The average number of points gained from matches during the past 12 months; and
The average number of points gained from matches older than 12 months (depreciates yearly).”

This means the rankings come down to pure math, leaving any kind of expert analysis (or common sense) out of the equation entirely. The system can therefore create some hilarious results, as it did this month.

New FIFA Ranking top 10: 1 Argentina 2 Germany 3 Belgium 4 Colombia 5 Netherlands 6 Brazil 7 Portugal 8 Romania 9 England 10 Wales

Peter Morrison/AP— Dale Johnson (@dalejohnsonESPN)

One day after falling in the Copa America final to Chile, Argentina surpassed reigning world champion Germany to become the No. 1 team in the world.

You can make an argument for either Germany or Argentina as the top team in the world, so this is one of the least controversial changes in the ranking. Since winning the World Cup in 2014, the German national team has been cruising through through Euro 2016 qualifying and went 1-1-1 in friendly games (losing to Argentina last September). Argentina, meanwhile, had gone undefeated in 2015 until Saturday night in Chile, losing in the final of the second consecutive major tournament.

The rest of the top 10 gets more interesting. Romania jumped from 12th in June to 8th in July, buoyed by a… scoreless draw against Northern Ireland June 13th. Romania currently sits atop Group F in Euro 2016 qualification, ahead of heavyweights like Northern Ireland, Hungary, the Faroe Islands, Finland and Greece. This is a nation that hasn’t qualified for the World Cup since 1998, and has never advanced past the quarterfinals in a World Cup or a European Championship. Realistically, it has no business being ranked ahead of Spain, Italy, England, Chile.

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