FIFA rankings underline England’s World Cup challenge
With Belgium in their group, it was never going to be easy for Gareth Southgate’s side.
England face one of the trickier World Cup groups, according to FIFA’s latest world rankings.
Gareth Southgate’s side have climbed to joint-12th in the new standings released on Thursday morning, now nine places below Group G top seeds Belgium.
Tunisia’s fall from 14th to 21st, with Panama ranked 55th, leaves the group average at 22.75 – the third-toughest group going by the updated rankings.
Groups E (average 16.25) and C (16.5) look the hardest on paper, suggesting a testing start for much-fancied Brazil and France respectively.
Les Bleus are ranked seventh and their group features two more of the world’s top 12 – Peru, in 11th, and Denmark who are ranked alongside England in 12th. Australia have climbed four places since the last update but remain the outsiders of the group in 36th.
World number two side Brazil face the highest-ranked group second seeds as Switzerland go into the tournament ranked sixth in the world. Costa Rica and Serbia have climbed to 23rd and 34th respectively.
The meeting of neighbours Portugal and Spain, both ranked in the world’s top 10, is the stand-out fixture of the group stage but their group’s rankings average out to a middling 23.
Spain dropping two places to 10th, switching places with Poland, plays its part while Iran have dropped one place to 37th and Morocco have climbed one to 41st.
Germany, ranked number one as they seek to become the first back-to-back champions in 56 years, face opponents ranked 15th, 24th and 57th for a group average of 24.25, third-easiest on paper.
Hosts Russia are the lowest-ranked nation in the tournament but have the compensation of the easiest group on paper, with an average ranking of 49th.
Their own slump to 70th of course plays a part in that, while Saudi Arabia are only three places higher. Top seeds Uruguay are down at 14th even after climbing three places while Egypt, second-best in the group at 45th, are ranked lower than any team in Groups B, C or E.