Belfast Telegraph

NI rewrite record books by moving to new high of 20 in world rankings

 

By Adam McKendry

Northern Ireland have cracked the top 20 of the Fifa World Rankings for the first time in their history following their wins over San Marino and the Czech Republic.

Michael O'Neill's men sit 20th after the latest rankings were released, signifying one of the most remarkable rises in world football.

Since O'Neill took over in December 2011, Northern Ireland have soared up the rankings, climbing 109 places from 129th all the way to their current position.

It's no more than the national team deserve after another superb qualifying campaign after making it to Euro 2016 last year.

O'Neill's men all but guaranteed themselves a play-off spot for next year's World Cup with their recent victories, and this rise also means they are more likely to be seeded for that potential tie.

With Iceland and Sweden both falling out of the top 20, it means two of the other potential seeds now rank below Northern Ireland.

The Republic of Ireland fell a disappointing five places in the latest rankings after their draw with Georgia and home loss to Serbia. Martin O'Neill's men now occupy 34th place.

Wales are the best ranked home nation after they moved up five places to 13th with wins over Austria and Moldova in the latest World Cup qualifiers.

England fall below them, dropping two places and sitting in 15th despite winning both of their qualifiers against Malta and Slovakia.

And Scotland made a remarkable resurgence, climbing 15 places in the rankings with two wins over Lithuania and Malta, improving to 43rd.

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