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Coral’s Alternative FIFA World Rankings

Who are the best international sides?

The final World Cup qualifiers take place this week, with 24 of the 32 slots in the tournament still up for grabs.

Once the 32 teams who will compete in Russia next year have been confirmed, the group stage draw will take place in Moscow on 1st December.

There’ll be four pots of teams, and with the exception of Russia as hosts, the teams will be allocated to pots based on their FIFA World Ranking. Russia and the top seven teams will be in Pot 1, the next eight best teams will be in Pot 2 and so on for Pots 3 and 4.

It seems like a fair system, but the FIFA Rankings aren’t entirely accurate and can be manipulated by clever scheduling.

Wales were ranked 113 before qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. Today they are all the way up in 13th. It’s a remarkable rise that’s partly down to their superb run to the Euro 2016 semi-finals, Chris Coleman’s management and Gareth Bale’s star quality.

It’s also a result of the Welsh FA scheduling just four friendlies since June 2014. FIFA Rankings are based on an average of points gained in matches over the last four years. But teams are awarded fewer points for friendly matches than they are for competitive games.

Friendlies can bring a team’s points average down, so Wales don’t often play them. Their last one was in June 2016.

The Coral News Team have examined the rankings and come up with an alternative top ten…

1) Brazil (FIFA ranking – 2)

Brazil are unbeaten in competitive games since Tite replaced Dunga as manager last June. They’ve strolled through the qualifying process and can call on top-quality players in virtually every position.

The Selecao’s star man is Neymar, who’s been in blistering form since his record-breaking move to Paris Saint-Germain. He’s backed up by the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Gabriel Jesus, Willian, Dani Alves and Marcelo.

2) Germany (FIFA ranking – 1)

The current World Cup holders had the strength in depth to win this summer’s Confederations Cup without many of their best players. Joachim Low has one of the best squads in the world, but it’s arguably weaker than the one that triumphed in Brazil.

They look light at full-back, particularly on the left. And they still don’t have a proven world-class striker. Thomas Muller is best when playing off another forward, not as a lone frontman. Timo Werner could be the striker they’re looking for but he’s yet to shine at the highest level.

3) Spain (FIFA ranking – 11)

Spain’s incredible run of success from 2008 to 2012 was built on their sensational midfield. And current boss Julen Lopetegui is spoilt for choice in that area, from veterans like Andres Iniesta to thrilling youngsters such as Marco Asensio.

Alvaro Morata and Diego Costa provide a cutting edge going forward, while David de Gea is guarded by an excellent defence.

Spain are unbeaten in qualifying and their only obvious weakness is a lack of electric pace.

4) France (FIFA ranking – 8)

Like Brazil, France can call on world-class talent all over the pitch. They also have plenty of prodigious youngsters too, such as Kylian Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele and Thomas Lemar.

The biggest question mark isn’t over the players, but the manager. There are doubts over whether Didier Deschamps is the right man to harness all of that attacking firepower and get the best of a hugely talented squad.

5) Portugal (FIFA ranking – 3)

The Euro 2016 winners aren’t as reliant on Cristiano Ronaldo as they have been in previous years.

Bernardo Silva adds sparkle in attacking midfield, Andre Silva is a clinical finisher and William Cavalho shields the backline. If Renato Sanches can rediscover his form at Swansea, he could light up the Premier League with his driving runs.

6) Argentina (FIFA ranking – 4)

The Argentines have been perennial runners-up in recent years. They lost the 2014 World Cup final as well as two consecutive Copa America finals. They’ve struggled through this qualifying campaign too. They still need two wins this week to guarantee their place in Russia. Jorge Sampaoli took over in June and their form should improve with his exciting system.

Sampaoli’s attacking options are the envy of managers all over the world. He can choose from Lionel Messi, Paulo Dybala and Sergio Aguero. Juventus’ £90m striker Gonzalo Higuain hasn’t even got in the latest squad.

7) Belgium (FIFA ranking – 5)

Any side that’s able to call on Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku could go all the way in Russia next year. The same was said ahead of the 2014 World Cup and Euro 2016 though, and Belgium made little impact in either tournament.

Roberto Martinez’s side have won seven and drawn one of their eight qualifiers so far. But for all of their talent, it remains to be seen if they can deliver on the big stage.

8) Italy (FIFA ranking – 17)

Italy’s Euro 2016 squad was weak by their standards but the Azzurri still managed to knock out Spain. They only lost on penalties to Germany in the quarter-finals.

They look in much better shape now. Marco Verratti has established himself as one of the best midfielders in the world since missing Euro 2016. Andrea Belotti has emerged as a sensational striker and they can still count on the famed BBC (Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Georgio Chiellini) at the back.

9) England (FIFA ranking – 15)

Few teams are as skilled as England when it comes to navigating through a qualification campaign. The Three Lions are unbeaten in qualifiers since 2009 and just need one more win to confirm their place in Russia.

There’s real promise in this England side, with Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Raheem Sterling the leading lights. As ever with Gareth Southgate’s though, they need to show what they can do when the real action begins at a tournament.

10) Colombia (FIFA ranking – 10)

Colombia reached the semi-finals of last year’s Copa America and are on course to qualify automatically for the World Cup. Their only qualifying losses have come against the big boys in South America – Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.

Jose Pekerman can call on a resurgent Radamel Falcao up front, while James Rodriguez and Juan Cuadrado have the talent to trouble any side. At the back, Davinson Sanchez will only improve following his move to Tottenham Hotspur.

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