When the FIFA world rankings were announced in August there was much confusion over England’s lofty third place merit. The main thought process being ‘how?’ While that was all going on something even more astounding went on, as Brazil slumped to 13th in the world, their worst ever placing. When the figures were announced again in October things had got even worse, Brazil were now 14th in the world trailing in the wake of Colombia and Greece in FIFA’s official rankings.
With the World Cup less than two years away in their own backyard alarm bells could of course be ringing, however you can bet they aren’t.
The rankings are a good model, and in theory they should, and kind of do work. England rarely lose to teams outside the world’s top ten so tend to fend off the likes of Portugal and Italy who are more prone to the banana-skin. France also like to make life difficult for themselves, but in essence the rankings are a good way to split the pots for major tournaments and their qualification.
Brazil however are suffering from their impending hosting of the tournament. While the other members of COMNEBOL are playing in their usual round-robin format Brazil are exempt, as hosts qualification is not necessary and they therefore miss out on big points through that medium.
Since Mano Menezes has taken over from Dunga he has turned the fortunes of Selecao on its head, and they are currently on a run of six victories on the bounce since August. Those games have seen them concede the one goal and score a quite incredible 24 times. Sure the opposition has not been much kop with China, South Africa and Iraq amongst the list but Sweden, Argentina and Japan have also been despatched by this current crop of players.
Kaka has also been re-introduced to the side with devastating effect. With a settled centre-back pairing of David Luiz and Thiago Silva, who have also been sharing the captaincy and solid goalkeeping in the form of Jefferson it gives plenty of room for Neymar, Lucas Moura, Paulinho, Hulk and Oscar to express themselves on the bedrock of the hard-working Ramires and Sandro.
All I am saying is do not be fooled by the lowly FIFA Ranking because Brazil are coming for the world in 2014 and based on current form, they will show no host party pleasantries to travelling opponents.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald