Australia now FIFA's highest-ranking Asian nation

Australia is the highest ranked nation in the Asian Football Confederation, according to the latest FIFA World Rankings. The Socceroos' last 16 finish in the FIFA World Cup 2006 saw the new AFC member soar nine places to 33 in the rankings, their highest position since 1998. Iran are second in Asia in 47th position, down 24 spots after a big loss of 62 points, while current Asian champions Japan are a distant third in 49th position. Central Asians Uzbekistan are in 50th spot, followed by the Korea Republic who are 56 after a lacklustre World Cup campaign. The new criteria for deciding the rankings saw Saudi Arabia suffer the biggest drop (down 47 places) to skid way down to 81 after a massive loss of 252 points. Kyrgyzstan, who won the AFC Challenge Cup in April, are the most improved side under the new system with a leap of 26 spots (though they actually lost 88 points), which pushed them up to 121. Guam is now the lowest ranked team in Asia in 196 position.

While heartened by Australia’s ranking, Football Federation Australia Chief Executive Officer John O'Neill was puzzled by the relatively modest improvement in Australia’s official position. "While Australia’s move of nine places is obviously positive, it is a little perplexing when compared with some of the other ranking changes. It appears that there are countries, for example, that have had large improvements of 20+ places, to a position higher than Australia’s, when they did not qualify for the recent World Cup. While we understand that the ranking system considers several years-worth of results, Australia’s relatively meager improvement would not seem to accurately reflect the achievements of the Socceroos over the last year or so. We will be seeking further information from FIFA so that we can better understand the way the new ranking system works. That should help us address the apparent dichotomy between the many independent acknowledgements of the team’s performances on one hand, and these clinical but somewhat counter-intuitive official rankings, on the other,” he told Asian Football Business Review.

Brazil still lead the rankings with 1630 points but new world champions Italy (1550 points) are closing in after rising to second from 12th position. The new rankings reportedly take into account the importance of matches and the strength of opponents.