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FIFA Ranking: How FIFA Ranks Each Country Every Month

FIFA Ranking Formula

Last Updated on October 15, 2021

Every month FIFA announces the best National teams in the preceding 12 months. However, most football fans do not know how the FIFA Ranking works at all.

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Ever since its inception in 1992 December, there has always been an inherent desire from both the fans and the professionals in the footballing arena to understand what goes into ranking a team.

The obvious understanding is that ranking is a system used to differentiate between the most successful team in respect to their results. And this is classified as the points system, as points are awarded depending on the outcome of the match.

Given the misnomer and the ineffective reflection of the points-based system, FIFA had been inclined to make necessary tweaks to the ranking system. This has led to the adoption of the current ranking version, the Elo rating system, as of 2018, August.

The Chronological Changes Of The FIFA Ranking System

The Point Based System

The initial methodology, which lasted between 1993-1998, was termed simplistic given the fact that it emulated the traditional leagues’ scoring system. The comparison basis of the teams was deemed inaccurate by football stakeholders and enthusiasts. Through those criticisms, FIFA was prompted to improve its ranking system.

The major talking point was Norway’s capability to ascend to 2nd position, surpassing all the football giants in October 1993 and 1995. Privy to the fact that an array of factors affect international matches, FIFA had to revise the initial point-based ranking calculating system. 

Through feedback from the previous model and extensive consultations, FIFA began the journey towards developing an easy-to-understand and accurate ranking formula.

This method is very similar to how Kickalgor Ranks the Premier League No. 1 in the world.

The Revised FIFA Ranking System, ‘99-’06

This led FIFA to craft a more complex, accurate, and comprehensive model by including key variants that were previously negated. This led to the introduction and evaluation of;

  • The strength of the opponent.
  • Goals scored and conceded.
  • Venue of the match.
  • The Importance of the match.
  • Regional strength.
  • Reduction of the number of years results, with a key focus on the past year.

Also;

  • The losing team was eligible to earn points.
  • Points for either a win or a draw were no longer a key factor.
  • Ranking on points was scaled by a factor of ten.  
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While the accuracy was improved, the surprise ranking of the United States Team to number four in 2006 showed that the ranking system was nowhere near perfect. 

Read Also: 5 Mistakes That Aspiring African Footballers Make

The Improved FIFA Ranking Formula, ‘06-‘18

After the 2006 World Cup, FIFA had to make a few other tweaks to make the ranking system simpler. The recommended changes included;

  • Away and home scored goal advantages was no longer a factor.
  • A revision on the importance of matches.

The formula used;

P = M x I x T x C

M – Results of the match

I – Match Importance

T – Strength of the opposing team

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C – Strength of the region/confederation

Factoring the region meant that teams with high rankings could also lose points even if they won matches against weaker opponents. This meant that high-ranking teams avoided playing low-ranking teams in friendly matches.

Host teams were also at risk of losing points since they do not participate in the rigorous qualification process. This was evident in the case of Brazil and Russia. The 2008 and 2015 ranking of Israel and Belgium in number 15 and 1 spot respectively led to scrutiny of the ranking system.

The perpetual bias on certain regions led FIFA to craft a new matrix and algorithm that offers a fair and equal opportunity to all teams despite their confederation.

Read Also: The Best Female Soccer Coaches

2018 FIFA Ranking Formula

With this in mind, FIFA modeled the system in tandem with the Elo rating system. To achieve the desired outcome, FIFA opted to do away with the previous ranking and reset the points with a distribution between 800 to 1600 with a 4 point gap variation from the highest ranking to the lowest ranking team. 

Hence, the formula;

FIFA ranking formula in 2018

R being the team’s rank as of June 2018. The rating changes would therefore be compared after this release.

FIFA crafted model to abolish;

  • Emphasis on confederation.
  • The gravitation of the home or away games.
  • The winning margins.

And;

  • FIFA Calculate on a game-by-game basis.

The SUM Formula

A modification of the Elo Rating System is curated by FIFA in such a way that it gives provision for the subtraction or addition of the team’s total points. Taking into consideration not only the team strength but the expected outcome coming into the game.

;

Pbefore – The team’s number of points before the game.

I – Match Importance.

W– Match Results

The Sum Formula by FIFA

dr– The differentiating team’s rating before the game.

With this formula;

  • If a match goes into a penalty shootout, both teams are awarded points. The point equivalent to a draw for the losing team and a half a win for the winning team.
  • If a team gets eliminated in the knockout round of a tournament, FIFA do not factor in Negative points. Hence, points do not change.
  • An adjustment was also made to ensure that decimal places are included instead of rounding the figure to the nearest whole number.

This new system was able to create a  more fair and equal ranking opportunity for teams across all confederations. The importance of matches grading friendly matches within and outside the stipulated FIFA schedule has offered some semblance in the ranking system.

This ensures dominant FIFA rewards teams for scaling higher in competitive tournaments and they don’t lose points from the knockout stage to the finals even if they lose.

The ranking publishing schedule is usually on a Thursday, with the deadline of matches to be evaluated on a Thursday before the release date. However, FIFA includes all games in the case of a major tournament. 

How’s Your Country Fairing?

FIFA has been ranking the best football teams in the world for over 50 years now, and this allows us to see how each country stacks up against the rest of the world.

In this article, we have provided you with a breakdown of how FIFA ranks each country every month. 

Further Reading:

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World Cup Quiz Question

The Quiz tests your overall knowledge of the FIFA World Cup.

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1 / 10

The record number of World Cup goals is 16, scored by who?

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3 / 10

Three countries have won the World Cup twice. Can you name them?

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4 / 10

In which World Cup did Diego Maradona score his infamous ‘Hand of god’ goal?

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5 / 10

Three people have won the World Cup as a player and as a coach. Mario Zagallo, Didier Deschamps, and… can you name the third?

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Both players won it in 1986 and 2018 respectively.

7 / 10

Two English players have won the World Cup Golden Boot. Who are they?

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9 / 10

The 2026 World Cup will be hosted across three different countries. Can you name them?

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10 / 10

Your score is

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The average score is 58%

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