Yossi Benayoun 370.
(photo credit: Reuters)
I have repeatedly gone on the record ridiculing the FIFA rankings.
World soccer’s governing body was always destined to fail with its method of ranking national teams of different confederations who play distinctively different schedules during the year.
However, saying all that, it would be foolish to chalk up Israel’s dramatic drop of 23 places to an all-time low of No. 81 on Wednesday as just another quirky aberration of the often inexplicable points system.
Israel currently finds itself ranked behind the likes of Haiti (71), Benin (72) and Albania (79), teams it would beat in at least nine of 10 meetings.
In November 2008, it reached a baffling record high of No. 15, ahead of superior teams as Greece (18), Sweden (29) and Denmark (34), which all qualified for both the 2010 World Cup and the upcoming Euro 2012.
Clearly, the rankings distort reality, but there is certainly some significance to Israel falling 66 places in three-and-a-half years.
The deterioration which began under coach Dror Kashtan and reached a disturbing low with Luis Fernandez has seen the blue-and-white go from a team expecting to challenge for qualification in every campaign to one which enters most matches hoping simply to avoid embarrassment.
Eli Gutman inherited Fernandez’s dysfunctional team at the start of the year and so far it has been hard to spot any progress in the three friendly games under his stewardship.
Israel lost its first match with Gutman in February, falling 3-2 to Ukraine and dropped to a 2-1 setback to the Czech Republic before last Thursday’s 2-0 defeat at Germany.
Next up for Israel is a friendly against Hungary in August before it begins its 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign at Azerbaijan on September 7.
As discouraging as Israel’s recent performances have been, Gutman should only be judged according to the team’s results in its qualifiers.
What is now clear, however, is that he has taken over an Israel side in such a free fall that even the FIFA rankings could not miss it.