In 2006, an outcry led by certain elements of the British Press was directed towards CONCACAF. The theory stated that the United States and Mexico had been ranked too highly under the FIFA World Ranking formula of the time.
Reacting to this public pressure, FIFA changed its formula towards new criteria which surprise, surprise benefit European countries more than any other region.
The current FIFA ranking rewards nations for playing more high profile friendlies against highly rated teams on FIFA blackout dates. This means that European nations, geographically more capable of scheduling these sorts of matches get a distinct advantage over the nations of CONCACAF, Africa, COMNEBOL and especially East Asia.
Thus South Korea, so competitive in the last two World Cups finds itself ranked below the likes of Scotland, Bosnia and Latvia who have qualified for a grand total of one major tournament this decade (Latvia’s 2004 Euro appearance). Honduras is ranked below Bulgaria and Israel for very much the same reasons.
FIFA’s emphasis on its new world ranking formula became even more apparent as the world governing body threw out the established criteria for seeding teams in World Cups and relied exclusively on the FIFA ranking for tomorrow’s draw.
Obviously, with the most commercially viable European sides protected by the October 09 ranking (but interestingly enough not the November 09 ranking which would have seen England unseeded in favor of France, a less football mad nation), it was simple enough to seed based on that. I don’t disagree with FIFA’s decision to use Oct 09 over Nov 09. I disagree with FIFA’s decision to seed exclusively based on this ranking.
Even today, when the subject of the FIFA ranking comes up on some English football programs, the issue of “over ranking” regarding the United States and Mexico is repeatedly mentioned. If anything, the new formula has been punitive towards both the US and Mexico in a way that it is not towards sides from UEFA. Qualifying loses for both nations’ precipitate, larger drops in the ranking than for the average UEFA side after similar losses in qualifying. This is inspite of the fact that Mexico’s qualification and advancement record in the World Cup is comparable to any major European side save the real powerhouses of Italy, and Germany.
Maybe the English are still upset that Mexico had the good sense to dump Sven Goran Eriksson’s act after ten months, when they put up for it for five years. Or perhaps they are so threatened by an American ascendency in the sport they claim to have invented (I believe based on my reading that the Scots actually invented the game, but the English deserve the credit for codifying the rules. But the London based press has little claim to either, as the rules of football were codified in industrial Sheffield, far from the elite media circles of London) that they have to put down the US at all costs.
Either way, the FIFA rankings which actually now benefit European sides are alleged to favor CONCACAF, when they do not. Even more criminal is the chronic under ranking of East Asian sides, for the reasons, I outline above.
Assured of seeding all of the commercially viable European nations (France is not a football first country, and they could be easily discarded in favor of football mad Holland and England), FIFA took the unprecedented and unwise step of revising its consistent seeding process. Perhaps next cycle the shoe will be on the other foot and the seeding process again revised?