Tal Ben-Haim and Omer Damari of the Israel national soccer team.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel’s national soccer team will drop to a new record-low in the next FIFA rankings when they are released on Thursday, falling 16 places to No. 98, bellow the likes of the Faroe Islands and Curacao, as well as the Palestinian national side.
Israel was ranked as high as No. 18 in 2008, but over the last three years has suffered from a steady decline. The blue-and-white ended 2018 World Cup qualifying Group G in fourth place, losing four of five home games and five of six matches in all to finish the campaign, scoring just a single goal over that stretch.
Israel is currently without a head coach, with its next competitive matches not coming until September 2018 when the UEFA Nations League, a new league competition for national teams, gets under way for the first time. The national team doesn’t begin Euro 2020 qualification until March 2019.
While there is no denying Israel’s struggles to contend for qualification for a major tournament over recent years, the FIFA rankings don’t necessarily provide an accurate picture of the state of national teams.
The rankings have been under stern criticism for many years, with teams taking advantage of loopholes in order to boost their position.
That will result in the likes of the Palestinian national team rising to No. 82 later this week despite recording far from stellar results, even though it has made some significant progress over recent years.
This has also allowed national teams to boost their seedings for the World Cup by avoiding friendly matches.
Currently seedings are based on the rankings, using a points system which calculates average points for each game and is weighted against friendly matches.
The result has been that some teams, such as Poland and Switzerland, who have played only a small amount of friendlies, have gained an advantage over teams who have played regular friendly games.
Friendly internationals played in November have not counted towards the seeding pots for the World Cup as they are based on last month’s FIFA rankings.
But two changes are set to impact the system significantly.
From September 2018, European and CONCACAF region teams will begin playing in Nations League competitions which will be played on the dates in the FIFA calendar traditionally set aside for friendly games.
That means there will be very little space available for friendly matches for the 90 national teams who are FIFA members in those two confederations.
That trend could well spread with FIFA confirming recently that they are in talks with confederations about creating a global Nations League structure, which would further reduce the amount of friendly games.
FIFA also said it plans to review the rankings system.
“FIFA is reviewing the FIFA World Ranking system and will take a decision after the completion of qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup if any changes are be made to improve the ranking,” the organization said recently.
Asked if those changes would address the issue of nations avoiding friendly matches to improve their rankings and how Nations League games would be factored into the calculation, FIFA told Reuters: “The FIFA ranking will be reviewed in the near future. As long as this has not been done, we can’t speculate on future scenarios. The current ranking takes into account all official matches.”
The World Cup draw will be held on December 1 in Moscow.Reuters contributed to this report.