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Spain lead strong Europe in FIFA rankings

Thursday, September 06, 2012    

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ZURICH, Switzerland (AP) — World and European champion Spain lead the latest FIFA rankings yesterday, with European teams holding the top four positions as they prepare to begin qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.

Spain maintain their lead over Germany and England, and Portugal move into fourth place above South American champion Uruguay.

Portugal beat Panama in a friendly last month, and Uruguay drew with France. Results from four years ago also dropped out of FIFA's calculations.

Italy is number six, followed by Argentina and the Netherlands. Croatia and Denmark complete the top 10.

World Cup host Brazil, who have dropped in the rankings while playing only friendlies this year, climbed one spot to number 12.

Ivory Coast lead Africa at number 16, ahead of qualifiers for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations this weekend.

Number 21 Mexico are the best in CONCACAF, who resume World Cup qualification tomorrow. The United States rose three places to number 33.

Japan lead Asia at number 23, Australia are ranked 25 and South Korea are at 27. All three play World Cup matches next Tuesday.

European teams start on the road to Brazil with 22 matches tomorrow and two on Saturday.

Two improving teams, number 20 Switzerland and number 24 Slovenia, meet in Ljubljana after failing to qualify for the European Championship.

Belgium, who have become a fashionable choice to outplay their ranking, rose 13 places to number 40 after beating their Dutch neighbour 4-2 in a friendly last month.

The Belgians begin tomorrow in Wales, who are ranked number 112 when the draw was made in Rio de Janeiro last year and were now number 45.

New Zealand lead Oceania, unchanged at number 95. Tahiti, who have qualified to play in the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil, rose 17 places to number 119.

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