Rank­ings key as FIFA shakes up Cup draw

New, sim­pli­fied for­mat fol­lows 2014 con­fu­sion

China Daily - - SPORTS -

ZURICH — FIFA an­nounced on Thurs­day a new and sim­pli­fied for­mat for the 2018 World Cup draw, with coun­tries to be grouped by their place in the world rank­ing rather than their con­ti­nent.

Soc­cer’s world-gov­ern­ing body said that the 32 teams would be di­vided into four pots, with the seven topranked teams plus host Rus­sia in Pot 1, the next eight ranked teams in Pot 2 and so on.

Each first-round group would con­sist of one team from each pot, de­ter­mined by the draw. FIFA said the only ge­o­graph­i­cal con­straint would be that no group could in­clude two teams from the same con­ti­nent, with the ex­cep­tion of Europe.

The draw for the pre­vi­ous World Cup in Brazil in­volved a com­plex sys­tem in which teams were di­vided ac­cord­ing to rank­ings for Pot 1 and their con­ti­nent for the re­main­der.

How­ever, to even out the num­bers, a “pre-draw” was held and a tem­po­rary Pot X was set up, cre­at­ing a sys­tem that crit­ics said was un­nec­es­sar­ily com­plex.

FIFA said the rank­ings, to be pub­lished on Oct 16, would be used for the draw, which will take place in Moscow on Dec 1.

This would avoid an­other con­tro­versy which emerged in 2014 when the Novem­ber rank­ings were used, which crit­ics said gave an ad­van­tage to teams in­volved in that month’s play­offs.

The top seven-ranked teams cur­rently in­clude Switzer­land and Poland, while Peru and Wales could fea­ture in Pot 2 along­side France and Spain, if they qual­ify.

Italy is cur­rently 17th in the FIFA rank­ings which would land it in Pot 3 if all the teams above it qual­ify.

Brazil, Iran, Mex­ico, Ja­pan, Bel­gium, South Korea and Saudi Ara­bia are the teams which have made sure of their places in next year’s tour­na­ment so far.

China moves up

Mean­while, world cham­pion Ger­many pushed Brazil back into sec­ond place to re­turn to the top of the FIFA rank­ings, which were pub­lished on Thurs­day.

Thanks to vic­to­ries over Uzbek­istan and Qatar in the World Cup Asian-zone qual­i­fi­ca­tion, China moved up 15 places to a 12-year-high of No 62. It is sixth-best in Asia, be­hind Iran (25th), Ja­pan (40th), Aus­tralia (50th), South Korea (51st) and Saudi Ara­bia (53rd).

China was 77th last month. Its pre­vi­ous best rank­ing was 37th in De­cem­ber 1998. In Septem­ber 2005, it was 60th.

Ger­many’s 2-1 win away to the the Czech Repub­lic and its 6-0 drub­bing of Nor­way in the World Cup qual­i­fiers lifted it over the al­ready-qual­i­fied Brazil, which dropped points in a draw away to Colom­bia.

Euro­pean cham­pion Por­tu­gal climbed three places to third — even though it is sec­ond in its World Cup qual­i­fy­ing group be­hind Switzer­land.

In an­other sur­prise, Ar­gentina is fourth in the rank­ings de­spite strug­gling in World Cup qual­i­fi­ca­tion af­ter draw­ing its last two games — away to Uruguay and at home to Venezuela.

War-torn Syria, which has reached the Asian play­off stage in the World Cup qual­i­fiers de­spite play­ing its ‘home’ matches in Malaysia be­cause of the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try, rose to its high­est-ever rank­ing of 75.

Three other teams reached their best-ever place — Peru (12th), North­ern Ire­land (20th) and Lux­em­burg (101st), af­ter the lat­ter pro­duced a mas­sive upset by hold­ing France to a 0-0 draw in Toulouse.

The next FIFA rank­ings will be an­nounced on Oct 16 and will be used to de­ter­mine the seed­ings in the draw for the four Euro­pean play­off ties for next year’s World Cup fi­nals in Rus­sia.

Top 10 rank­ings: (pre­vi­ous po­si­tions in brack­ets) 1. Ger­many (2) 2. Brazil (1) 3. Por­tu­gal (6) 4. Ar­gentina (3) 5. Bel­gium (9) 6. Poland (5) 7. Switzer­land (4) 8. France (10) 9. Chile (7) 10. Colom­bia (8).

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