Wednesday, August 19, 2009

South Africa Sinks to No. 72 in World Rankings

Well, this has been a bit of a damper on World Cup enthusiasm, in South Africa.

The latest FIFA world rankings have South Africa at No. 72 on the planet, down two slots from the previous list. Here is a link to the Johannesburg Sunday Times story on it, and you can almost see the hand-wringing from a continent away.

Canada and Trinidad & Tobago have gone past the hosts of the 2010 World Cup, and that can't be promising ... especially for those of us who know how modest the achievements of the Canadian and Trinidadian sides are. Canada failed even to make the final six in Concacaf qualifying, and T&T has been all but eliminated from World Cup consideration halfway through the final round of competition.

At this rate, South Africa will be, by far, the lowest-ranked soccer nation ever to play host to the World Cup.

The lowest previous?

From my investigation of FIFA's rankings ... it appears as if South Korea was the previous lowest-ranked host -- No. 40 in May of 2002, the month before South Korea co-hosted with Japan -- which was No. 32 in May of 2002, the second-lowest ranking on record.

In 1994, the United States was the ranked No. 24 a month ahead of the tournament.

France was No. 18 just before the 1998 World Cup that it hosted ...

Germany was No. 19 (how did that happen?) the month before it hosted the 2006 World Cup.

FIFA's Web site takes its world rankings back only as far as 1993. But it's hard to imagine any earlier hosts of the World Cup -- Italy in 1990, Mexico in 1986, Spain in 1982, Argentina in 1978, West Germany in 1974, Mexico in 1970, England in 1966 ... and so on back to Uruguay in 1930 ... were ranked as low as South Africa is -- or is likely to be.

A 3-1 loss, in South Africa, to Serbia in a friendly last week won't help South Africa's ranking, either.

No host nation has failed to survive the first round of the tournament. But unless South Africa shows more signs of life, it will break that streak.

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