England have climbed to third in the latest Fifa world rankings – their highest position, even though Roy Hodgson's side were knocked out of Euro 2012 at the quarter-final stage and have failed to reach the last four of a major competition since 1996.
England have moved above Uruguay in the standings, which are led by Spain with Germany in second place. The points that the South American side earned in winning the Copa América a year ago lost some of their value under the complicated system of co-efficients used to determine the rankings.
England were outclassed by Italy in their quarter-final in Kiev six weeks ago, yet are ranked three places higher than the finalists. Portugal, who reached the semis at Euro 2012, are also lower, as are Holland and Argentina. In a further quirk of the standings, Brazil are 13th – one position below Greece and three beneath Denmark.
England's lofty position asks significant questions of the way the rankings are calculated. Apart from a friendly win over Spain last November and the 5-1 thrashing of Croatia in a qualifier for the 2010 World Cup, England's results have been mixed in recent years. The last victory against significant opposition at a major competition was the 1-0 win over Argentina at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea.
Fifa rankings are based on all international matches, including friendlies, played in the previous four years. The criteria included are the outcome, status of the match, opponent's strength and the strength of team's confederation. Wins against high ranking opponents in competitive matches are valuable, and only results over the past 12 months count in full. Those from the previous year count half, while games played up to three and four years earlier have even less significance.
Since the 2010 World Cup, England's record reads a respectable won 13, drawn five and lost three. But their inability to progress in the knockout stages of tournaments, where they have consistently fallen short against quality opponents, undermine the value of the rankings.
Fifa on Wednesday said England's poor record at major tournaments has little bearing on the rankings because only matches played within the past four years are taken into account. England accumulated most of their rankings points during successful qualifying campaigns for the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012.
Fifa explained that the anomaly of Roy Hodgson's side being placed higher than Italy, despite their clear inferiority in Kiev, is because they have amassed better results over the last four years. At Euro 2012, England won two and drew two in four matches, whereas Italy won two, drew three and lost one in six matches. Wins or losses after penalty shootouts are considered a draw for ranking purposes.
South Sudan have entered the rankings for the first time after playing their inaugural full international last month. A 2-2 draw at home to Uganda in a friendly played in Juba on 10 July has put South Sudan 199th in the 209-team table. South Sudan, which became fully independent last year, joined Fifa in May after being voted in at the annual Congress.
the top 20 teams in the world, according to fifa:
16 Côte d'Ivoire
19 Czech Republic