Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland set for top 20 in World Rankings to boost World Cup play-off seeding chances

And what does that mean for their prospects of being seeded for a World Cup play-off?

By Gareth Hanna

Northern Ireland could well be set to hit 20th spot in the World Rankings for the first time when the next update is released.

That's according to the calculator on FIFA's own website, that says Northern Ireland's wins over San Marino and Czech Republic will see then move up to 945 ranking points.

NI currently have 897 and sit 23rd in the rankings. But that move would be enough to see them leapfrog Iceland (who would go from 927 points to 932), Sweden (933 to 918) and Costa Rica (918 to 936). That three place jump, of course, would be enough to see Northern Ireland hit the top 20 for the first time ever.

Remaining ahead of NI would be Wales (951 to 1089) and Slovakia (917 to 967) - remember that and read on.

Have a look here:

Fifa World Ranking calculator.jpg
How these four key sides are likely to change before the World Cup Play-Off seedings.

What does that mean for World Cup play-off seeding?

Well it's very significant. Seedings will be decided on the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking to be published on 16 October. Of course that is after that final two fixtures in qualification - so all of this is just 'as it stands' before those games.

As explained in this detailed look at all the permutations, Portugal and Italy (Group B and Group G) will take the top two seeds. That leaves another two up for grabs.

Iceland (Group I) and Sweden (Group A) both have strong chances of making the play-offs and had looked like they would be seeded ahead of NI as they were higher ranked. But this reversal could change everything.

As things stand, the only way Northern Ireland will NOT be seeded for the play-offs is if BOTH Wales (Group D) and Slovakia (Group F) make it into the play-off stage. But remember that could change between now and October 16 - the key date.

Have a look here for all the nitty gritty permutations of the remaining two fixtures:

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