Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland slide down Fifa rankings

By Graham Luney

While Northern Ireland believed they had a fighting chance of qualifying for the Euro 2012 finals before the double-header against Serbia and Estonia, there is now a sorry inevitability about Nigel Worthington’s side going the wrong way in the Fifa rankings.

And while Worthington has always said he pays little attention to the international charts, the harsh reality is that Northern Ireland will face a much tougher route to the finals of a major tournament if they slip further down the table.

The further you go down the Fifa rankings — Northern Ireland have now slipped down to 70th, a drop of 11 places — the need for more giant-killing heroics increases as more rivals are seeded above them in draws.

Defeats to Serbia and Estonia — the latter contest shocking 4-1 defeat — have piled intense pressure on Worthington and these latest figures offer little comfort to the former Norwich City boss.

Northern Ireland are now ranked below Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe and Panama and are just one spot ahead of Albania.

The outlook is much brighter for the Republic of Ireland who are up two places to 29th — their highest ranking in six years.

Despite wins over Bulgaria and Wales, England slip back four places to eighth, Scotland are up three to 52nd while Wales climb 27 spots to 90th.

World and European champions Spain have edged back to first place, with Holland dropping to second and Germany static in third, ahead of Copa America winners Uruguay.

Northern Ireland will have the opportunity to regain some lost ground by finishing strongly in their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign.

But a home game against Estonia and trip to Italy next month represent tough hurdles for a side that must now be struggling to regain confidence and morale.

Belfast Telegraph


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