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Spain top FIFA world rankings

  • Story Highlights
  • Spain remain top of FIFA's world rankings for the ninth month in a row
  • FIFA revamped their ranking system to make it more representative in 2006
  • Football fans are still unsure about how accurate the rankings are
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By Neale Graham
For CNN
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Spain remain top of the world rankings for the ninth straight month, according to newly released standings by FIFA, the world game's governing body.

European champions Spain are ranked No.1 by FIFA in their world rankings.

European champions Spain are ranked No.1 by FIFA in their world rankings.

The European champions have not lost a game since going down 1-0 in a friendly to Romania in Cadiz in November 2006.

They top their 2010 World Cup qualifying group, with four wins from four games, and have only conceded one goal in their last 10 internationals.

No team can compete with that record and Spain are placed at No.1 for that reason.

Their rankings are based on team performances over the last four years, with more recent results and more significant matches being more heavily weighted to help reflect the current competitive state of a team.

Yet fans all over the world have long questioned how much can be read into the rankings.

After the 2008 African Cup of Nations, US-based football columnist Ives Galarcep wrote: "Don't try making any sense of these rankings. After all, Egypt, which just won the African Cup of Nations for a second straight time, is ranked 29th, fourth best among African teams."

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For example, France, who reached the World Cup final in 2006 are down in 12th, while England, who failed to even qualify for Euro 2008, are ninth.

Furthermore, Les Bleus were at their lowest-ever standing in the rankings in April 1998, when they were down in 25th. Three months later, they lifted the World Cup.

From 2001-06, Mexico were anchored in the top 10, at one point as high as fourth, which left many European fans wondering how that was possible. They were ahead of many a supposed European powerhouse, such as Portugal.

Not only did the Iberian country reach the final of Euro 2004, they also made the semi-finals of the World Cup in Germany two years later.

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Mexico were even in the same group as Portugal at the World Cup and finished five points behind them in second place. In the round of 16 Mexico fell to skilful but flawed Argentina side.

Surely the yardstick is the planet's biggest tournament? There is luck involved, of course, as it's knockout football, but the best teams overall tend to go through.

FIFA's suggestion that Mexico were once the fourth-best team in the world does not seem to add up. And to suggest that throughout this period they were better than Portugal does not ring true -- not when performances on the pitch indicate otherwise.

Other ranking systems, compiled by football statisticians, have been founded as an alternative to FIFA's, which began in 1993.

Criticism that calculating rankings over an eight-year period was unrepresentative of a team's recent performances led to FIFA revamping their system after the last World Cup.

"The increasingly high profile of the world ranking has also brought a certain amount of criticism that its calculation formula is too complicated. It was therefore decided in 2005 to revise the ranking in order to simplify the way in which it is calculated," according to FIFA.com.

Before that there were even more glaring anomalies than today: Norway were twice ranked second in the table in the 1990s and the United States were fourth two months before the World Cup in 2006.

At the tournament, the Americans went home early after picking up one point and two goals in their three group games, which made a mockery of such a high placing.

As of March 2009, Brazil and Argentina are the only non-European teams in the top 10, Cameroon (16) are the highest African nation, the United States are 17th, while Australia are the top Asian nation at 32.

But regardless of your opinions of the rankings, they are here to stay. And Spain deserve respect for becoming only the sixth team after Germany, Brazil, Italy, France and Argentina to top them.

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