By Ed Barrett
A familiar picture for all England fans: near but rarely far enough
The England national team is currently sixth in both the FIFA and Elo rankings. (The latter being nothing to do with the bewhiskered Brummie classical-rock ensemble: it’s the international system that was in place many years before the FIFA system was introduced in 1992.)
Historically, England have been ranked number one in the world four times: for the periods 1872-1876, 1892-1911, 1966 to 1970, and, incredibly, 1987-1988. (The latter reign ending after the team’s abject performance at the European finals that year, when they lost all three group matches.) Since then, their highest ranking has been fourth.
Rankings are invidious, of course, and the methods of calculation are always controversial. The main objections are that they don’t accurately reflect the present quality of the current teams because they use data accumulated over a number of years, and they don’t accurately reflect the quality of the opposition faced or the importance of the actual games played.
Steps have been made to address these criticisms, however, and it’s hard to disagree with the current rankings – certainly not top boys Spain, who have been at number one for longer than anyone since Wet Wet Wet.
But how do the top nations rank historically in the matches that really count – the tournaments that have us glued to our screens every other summer? How does England compare to the teams with which we can be directly compared – the top European nations who regularly star in these two tournaments?
First the teams: Germany (including West Germany but not East Geramny), Italy, France, Spain and the Netherlands.
Second, the rationale: A simple system based on points awarded