|Fédération Internationale de Football Association|
|Motto||For the Game. For the World.|
|Formation||21 May 1904|
|Type||Federation of national associations|
|Membership||208 national associations|
|Official languages||English, French, German, Spanish,|
The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (English: International Federation of Association Football), commonly known as FIFA (usual English pronunciation: /ˈfiːfə/), is the international governing body of association football. Its headquarters are located in Zürich, Switzerland, and its current president is Sepp Blatter. FIFA is responsible for the organisation and governance of football’s major international tournaments, most notably the FIFA World Cup, held since 1930.
FIFA has 208 member associations, three more than the International Olympic Committee and five fewer than the International Association of Athletics Federations.
The need for a single body to oversee the game became apparent at the beginning of the 20th century with the increasing popularity of international fixtures. FIFA was founded in Paris on 21 May 1904; the French name and acronym remain, even outside French-speaking countries. The founding members were the national associations of Belgium, Denmark, France, The Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. Also, that same day, the German Association declared its intention of affiliating through a telegram.
The first president of FIFA was Robert Guérin. Guérin was replaced in 1906 by Daniel Burley Woolfall from England, by now a member association. The next tournament staged, the football competition for the 1908 Olympics in London was more successful, despite the presence of professional footballers, contrary to the founding principles of FIFA.
During World War I, with many players sent off to war and the possibility of travel for international fixtures severely limited, there were few international fixtures, and the organisation’s survival was in doubt. Post-war, following the death of Woolfall, the organisation was run by Dutchman Carl Hirschmann. It was saved from extinction, but at the cost of the withdrawal of the Home Nations (of the United Kingdom), who cited an unwillingness to participate in international competitions with their recent World War enemies. The Home Nations later resumed their membership.
The FIFA collection is held by the National Football Museum in England.
FIFA is an association established under the Laws of Switzerland. Its headquarters are in Zürich.
FIFA’s supreme body is the FIFA Congress, an assembly made up of representatives from each affiliated member association. The Congress assembles in ordinary session once every year and, additionally, extraordinary sessions have been held once a year since 1998. Only the Congress can pass changes to FIFA’s statutes.
Congress elects the President of FIFA, its General Secretary and the other members of FIFA’s Executive Committee. The President and General Secretary are the main officeholders of FIFA, and are in charge of its daily administration, carried out by the General Secretariat, with its staff of approximately 280 members.
FIFA’s Executive Committee, chaired by the President, is the main decision-making body of the organisation in the intervals of Congress. FIFA’s worldwide organisational structure also consists of several other bodies, under authority of the Executive Committee or created by Congress as standing committees. Among those bodies are the Finance Committee, the Disciplinary Committee, the Referees Committee, etc.
Aside from its worldwide institutions (presidency, Executive Committee, Congress, etc.) there are six confederations recognised by FIFA which oversee the game in the different continents and regions of the world. National associations, and not the continental confederations, are members of FIFA. The continental confederations are provided for in FIFA’s statutes. National associations must claim membership to both FIFA and the confederation in which their nation is geographically resident for their teams to qualify for entry to FIFA’s competitions (with a few geographic exceptions listed below):
- AFC – Asian Football Confederation in Asia and Australia
- CAF – Confédération Africaine de Football in Africa
- CONCACAF – Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football in North America and Central America
- CONMEBOL – Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol in South America
- OFC – Oceania Football Confederation in Oceania
- UEFA – Union of European Football Associations in Europe.
Nations straddling the traditional boundary between Europe and Asia have generally had their choice of confederation. As a result, a number of transcontinental nations including Russia, Turkey, Cyprus, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia have chosen to become part of UEFA despite the bulk of their land area being in Asia. Israel, although lying entirely within Asia, joined UEFA in 1994, after decades of its football teams being boycotted by many AFC countries. Kazakhstan moved from the AFC to UEFA in 2002. Australia was the latest to move from the OFC to AFC in January 2006.
In total, FIFA recognises 208 national associations and their associated men’s national teams as well as 129 women’s national teams; see the list of national football teams and their respective country codes. Curiously, FIFA has more member states than the United Nations, as FIFA recognises several non-sovereign entities as distinct nations, such as the four Home Nations within the United Kingdom or politically disputed territories such as Palestine. The FIFA World Rankings are updated monthly and rank each team based on their performance in international competitions, qualifiers, and friendly matches. There is also a world ranking for women’s football, updated four times a year.
Recognitions and awards
FIFA awards, each year, the title of FIFA World Player of the Year to the top men’s and women’s players of the year, as part of its annual awards ceremony which also recognises team and international football achievements.
In 1994 FIFA published the FIFA World Cup All-Time Team.
In 2002 FIFA announced the FIFA Dream Team, an all-time all-star team chosen by fans in a poll.
Governance and game development
Laws of the Game
The laws that govern football, known officially as the Laws of the Game, are not solely the responsibility of FIFA; they are maintained by a body called the International Football Association Board (IFAB). FIFA has members on its board (four representatives); the other four are provided by the football associations of the United Kingdom: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, who jointly established IFAB in 1882 and are recognised for the creation and history of the game. Changes to the Laws of the Game must be agreed by at least six of the eight delegates.
Discipline of national associations
FIFA frequently takes active roles in the running of the sport and developing the game around the world. One of its sanctions is to suspend teams and associated members from international competition when a government interferes in the running of FIFA’s associate member organisations or if the associate is not functioning properly.
A 2007 FIFA ruling that a player can be registered with a maximum of three clubs, and appear in official matches for a maximum of two, in a year measured from July 1 to June 30 has led to controversy, especially in those countries whose seasons cross that date barrier, as in the case of two former Ireland internationals. As a direct result of this controversy, FIFA modified this ruling the following year to accommodate transfers between leagues with out-of-phase seasons.
Since the 1994 FIFA World Cup, like the UEFA Champions League, FIFA has adopted an anthem composed by the German composer Franz Lambert. The FIFA Anthem is played at the beginning of official FIFA sanctioned matches and tournaments such as international friendlies, the FIFA World Cup, FIFA Women’s World Cup, FIFA U-20 World Cup, FIFA U-17 World Cup, FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, FIFA Women’s U-17 World Cup, FIFA Futsal World Cup, FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, and FIFA Club World Cup.
Allegations of financial irregularities
In May 2006 British investigative reporter Andrew Jennings‘ book Foul! The Secret World of FIFA: Bribes, Vote-Rigging and Ticket Scandals (Harper Collins) caused controversy within the football world by detailing an alleged international cash-for-contracts scandal following the collapse of FIFA’s marketing partner ISL, and revealed how some football officials have been urged to secretly repay the sweeteners they received. The book also alleged that vote-rigging had occurred in the fight for Sepp Blatter’s continued control of FIFA.
Shortly after the release of Foul! a BBC television exposé by Jennings and BBC producer Roger Corke for the BBC news programme Panorama was broadcast. In this hour-long programme, screened on June 11, 2006, Jennings and the Panorama team agree that Sepp Blatter was being investigated by Swiss police over his role in a secret deal to repay more than £1m worth of bribes pocketed by football officials.
All testimonies offered in the Panorama expose were provided through a disguised voice, appearance, or both, save one; Mel Brennan, formerly a lecturer at Towson University in the United States (and from 2001–2003 Head of Special Projects for CONCACAF, a liaison to the e-FIFA project and a FIFA World Cup delegate), became the first high-level football insider to go public with substantial allegations of greed, corruption, nonfeasance and malfeasance by CONCACAF and FIFA leadership. During the Panorama exposé, Brennan—the highest-level African-American in the history of world football governance—Jennings and many others exposed allegedly inappropriate allocations of money at CONCACAF, and drew connections between ostensible CONCACAF criminality and similar behaviours at FIFA. Brennan’s book, The Apprentice: Tragicomic Times Among the Men Running—and Ruining—World Football is due out in 2010.
FIFA does not permit video evidence during matches, although it is permitted for subsequent disciplinary sanctions. The 1970 meeting of the International Football Association Board “agreed to request the television authorities to refrain from any slow-motion play-back which reflected, or might reflect, adversely on any decision of the referee”. In 2008, FIFA President Sepp Blatter said: “Let it be as it is and let’s leave [football] with errors. The television companies will have the right to say [the referee] was right or wrong, but still the referee makes the decision — a man, not a machine.”
It has been said that instant replay is needed given the difficulty of tracking the activities of 22 players on such a large field, and it has been proposed that instant replay be used in penalty incidents, fouls which lead to bookings or red cards and whether the ball has crossed the goal line, since those events are more likely than others to be game changing.
Critics also point out that instant replay is already in use in other sports, including rugby union, cricket, American football, Canadian football, basketball, baseball, tennis, and ice hockey. As one notable proponent of video replay, Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz has been quoted as saying that the “credibility of the game” is at stake.
FIFA structured tournaments
- FIFA World Cup
- FIFA U-20 World Cup
- FIFA U-17 World Cup
- FIFA Confederations Cup
- FIFA Club World Cup
- FIFA Futsal World Cup
- FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup
- Blue Stars / FIFA Youth Cup
- FIFA Women’s World Cup
- FIFA Women’s Club World Cup
- FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup
- FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup
The following are the sponsors of FIFA (named “FIFA Partners”):
FIFA World Rankings
|Top 25 Rankings as of 26 May 2010|
The FIFA World Rankings is a ranking system for men’s national teams in association football, currently led by Brazil. The teams of the member nations of FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association), football’s world governing body, are ranked based on their game results with the most successful teams being ranked highest. The rankings were introduced in 1992, and six teams (Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, Italy and Spain) have held the top position, of which Brazil have spent longest ranked first.
A point system is used, with points being awarded based on the results of FIFA-recognised international matches. Under the existing system, rankings are based on a team’s performance over the last four years, with more recent results and more significant matches being more heavily weighted to help reflect the current competitive state of a team. The ranking system was most recently revamped after the 2006 World Cup, with the first edition of the new series of rankings issued on 12 July 2006. The most significant change is that the rankings are now based on results over the previous four years instead of the previous eight years. The change is perceived to respond to criticisms that the rankings do not effectively reflect the relative strengths of the national teams. (See section Criticism).
Alternative systems have been devised, such as the World Football Elo Ratings, based on the Elo rating system used in chess and Go, ranking teams on an all time basis. The Unofficial Football World Championships ranks teams on the number of times they have defended the Unofficial Football World Championship, an award devised solely for that purpose.
In December 1992, FIFA first published a listing in rank order of its member associations to provide a basis for comparison of the relative strengths of these teams. From the following August, with sponsorship from Coca-Cola, this list was more frequently updated, to be published most months. Significant changes were implemented in 1999 and again in 2006, as a reaction to criticisms of the system. Membership of FIFA has expanded from 167 to 208 since the rankings began, but one member, São Tomé and Príncipe, is not included in the rankings as they have not played a recognised international fixture for more than four years.
When the rankings were initially introduced, a team received one point for a draw or three for a victory in FIFA-recognised matches – much the same as a traditional league scoring system. This was a quite simplistic approach, however, and FIFA quickly realised that there were many factors affecting international matches. In order to meet the objective of fairly and accurately comparing the relative strengths of various national sides, the system was updated. The major changes were as follows:
- the point ranking was scaled up by a factor of ten
- the method of calculation was changed to take into account factors including:
- the number of goals scored or conceded
- whether the match was played at home or away
- the importance of a match or competition
- regional strength
- a fixed number of points were no longer necessarily awarded for a victory or a draw
- match losers were able to earn points
Two new awards were introduced as part of the system:
The changes made the ranking system more complex, but helped improve its accuracy by making it more comprehensive.
2006 ranking system update
FIFA announced that the ranking system would be updated following the 2006 World Cup. The evaluation period was cut from eight to four years, and a simpler method of calculation is now used to determine rankings. Goals scored and home or away advantage are no longer taken into account, and other aspects of the calculations, including the importance attributed to different types of match, have been revised. The first set of revised rankings and the calculation methodology were announced on 12 July 2006.
This change is rooted at least in part in widespread criticism of the previous ranking system. Many football enthusiasts felt it was inaccurate, especially when compared to other ranking systems and that it was not sufficiently responsive to changes in the performance of individual teams.
When the system was introduced, Germany debuted as the top ranked team following their extended period of dominance in which they had reached the three previous FIFA World Cup finals, winning one of them. Brazil took the lead in the run up to the 1994 FIFA World Cup after winning eight and losing only one of nine qualification matches, while on the way scoring twenty goals and conceding just four. Italy then led for a short time on the back of their own equally successful World Cup qualifying campaign, after which the top place was re-claimed by Germany.
Brazil’s success in their lengthy qualifying campaign returned them to the lead for a brief period. Germany led again during the 1994 World Cup, until Brazil’s victory in that competition gave them a large lead that would stand up for nearly seven years, until they were surpassed by a strong France team that captured both the 1998 FIFA World Cup and the 2000 European Football Championship. Success at the 2002 FIFA World Cup restored Brazil to the top position, where they remained until February 2007, when Italy returned to the top for the first time since 1993 following their 2006 FIFA World Cup win in Germany. Just one month later, Argentina replaced them, reaching the top for the first time, but Italy regained its place in April. After winning the Copa América 2007 in July, Brazil returned to the top, but were replaced by Argentina in October. In July 2008, Spain took over the lead for the first time, having won UEFA Euro 2008. Brazil began a sixth stint at the top of the rankings in July 2009 after winning the 2009 Confederations Cup, and Spain regained the title in November 2009 after winning every match in qualification for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. In April 2010, Brazil returned to the top of the table.
Uses of the rankings
The rankings are used by FIFA to rank the progression and current ability of the national football teams of its member nations, and claims that they create “a reliable measure for comparing national A-teams”. They are used as part of the calculation, or the entire grounds to seed competitions. In the 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification tournament, the rankings were used to seed the groups in the competitions involving CONCACAF members (using the May rankings), CAF (with the July set of data), and UEFA, using the specially postponed November 2007 ranking positions.
The rankings are also used to determine the winners of the two annual awards national teams receive on the basis of their performance in the rankings.
Since their introduction in 1992, the FIFA World Rankings have been the matter of much debate, particularly regarding the calculation procedure and the resulting disparity between generally perceived quality and world ranking of some teams. For example Norway was ranked second in October 1993 and July–August 1995, and the United States reached fourth in 2006, to the surprise of even their own players. However, criticism regarding the unrealistic ranking continued even after the introduction of the new formula, with Israel’s climb to 15th in November 2008 raising a few eyebrows even in the Israeli press, with Israel missing a huge opportunity to break in the top 10 after conceding a last gasp equaliser against Latvia.
Prior to July 2006, one of the main criticisms was that the rankings considered the performances of teams over an eight year period, and that teams’ ranking positions did not correlate to their recent performances. This criticism has lessened somewhat with the introduction of a new formula, reflecting results over a four year period, introduced in July 2006.
The perceived flaws in the FIFA system have led to the creation of a number of alternative rankings from football statisticians including the World Football Elo Ratings and the rec.sport.soccer Statistics Foundation rankings.
Current calculation method
After the 2006 FIFA World Cup, a revised calculation procedure for the FIFA rankings was introduced; it is a significantly simplified procedure. The new rankings were compiled in response to criticism from the media. Meetings were attended by FIFA staff and external experts and a large amount of research was conducted by this group, resulting in the new ranking system. The new system was confirmed in Leipzig on 7 December 2005 by a committee of FIFA executives. Notable changes include the dropping of the home or away advantage and number of goals from the calculation, and the simplification of many aspects of the system.
The system, like the previous ones, is extremely similar to that of a league, though with changes made to ensure that it is still representative of the teams’ performance despite playing differing numbers of matches per annum, and the differing strength of opposition that teams have to face. The factors taken into account are as follows:
- Match result
- Match status
- Opposition strength
- Regional strength
Teams’ actual scores are a result of the average points gained over each calendar year; matches from the previous four years are considered, with more weight being given to recent ones.
Win, draw or defeat
In previous years a complicated system of points allocation was used, depending on how strong the opponent was, and how large the loss margin, which allowed weaker losing teams to gain points when playing a much stronger opposition, if they managed to put up a decent match. With the new system, the points allocation is simpler: three points for a win, one point for a draw, and zero points for a loss, in line with most league systems around the world.
In the event of a match being decided by a penalty shootout, the winning team receives two points, and the losing team one point.
|Win (no penalty shootout)||3|
|Win (penalty shootout)||2|
|Loss (penalty shootout)||1|
|Loss (no penalty shootout)||0|
In two-legged play-offs, if Team A loses the first leg 2 – 0, then matches the result in the return leg and wins after a penalty shootout, it will receive two points. However, if Team A wins by one goal only, being eliminated in the process, it will receive 3 points.
Different matches have different importance to teams, and FIFA has tried to respect this by using a weighting system, where the most significant matches are in the World Cup finals, and the lowest weighted are friendly matches. FIFA states that it wishes to recognise that friendlies are still important, since they make up half of the competitive matches counted in the rankings. FIFA also stated, however, that it did not plan to make any adjustment for teams that qualify directly for major tournaments.
The match status multipliers are as follows:
|Friendly match||x 1.0|
|FIFA World Cup and Continental cup qualifiers||x 2.5|
|Continental cup and Confederations Cup finals||x 3.0|
|World Cup finals match||x 4.0|
Obviously, a win against a very highly ranked opponent is a considerably greater achievement than a win against a low-rated opponent, so the strength of the opposing team is a factor.
The new system uses an opposition strength factor based on team rankings. The previous system was based on points difference.
The formula used is:
with the exceptions that the team ranked #1 is given a multiplier of 2.00, and teams ranked 150th and below are assigned the minimum multiplier of 0.50.
- Example 1: the opposition team is currently ranked 8th in the world:
- so the opposition strength multiplier is 1.92
- Example 2: the opposition team is currently ranked 125th in the world:
- so the opposition strength multiplier is 0.75
- Example 3: the opposition team is currently ranked 188th in the world:
Below 150th, so the opposition strength multiplier is the minimum 0.50
The ranking position is taken from the opposition’s ranking in the most recently published FIFA World Ranking before the match is included in the ranking calculation.
The rankings published before July 2006 are purely historical and are not used for the new ranking calculation. Instead, FIFA went back as far as 1996 to apply the new formula and is using those new rankings for the current calculations.
See the detailed break-down of point totals for teams from the top 20 in the October 2007 rankings.
In addition to the opposition strength multiplier, FIFA considers the relative strength of entire confederations in the calculation. Each confederation is assigned a weighting between 0.85 and 1.0, based on the relative performance of the confederations in the last three World Cups. Their values are as follows:
|Confederation||After 2006 World Cup||Up to and including 2006 World Cup|
|CONMEBOL (South America)||0.98||0.99|
|CONCACAF (North and Central America and Caribbean)||0.85||0.88|
The multiplier used in the calculation is the average of the regional strength weighting of the two teams:
Matches played over the last four years (48 months) are included in the calculation, but there is a weighting to put more emphasis on recent results. Previously an eight year period was used. The date weighting is as follows:
|Date of match||Multiplier|
|Within the last 12 months||x 1.0|
|12–24 months ago||x 0.5|
|24–36 months ago||x 0.3|
|36–48 months ago||x 0.2|
São Tomé and Príncipe were eliminated from the rankings list in December 2007 having exceeded four years without playing a match.
The final ranking points figure for a single match is multiplied by 100 and rounded to the nearest whole number.
Results for all matches played in the year are averaged together (assuming at least five matches have been played). The average ranking points for the four previous years, weighted by their multiplier mentioned above, are added together to arrive at the final ranking points.
The following examples use these hypothetical teams and confederations, and assume the games are played within the last 12 months:
- Amplistan is currently ranked 2nd in the world and is a member of confederation XYZ (weighting 1.0);
- Bestrudia is currently ranked 188th in the world and is a member of confederation ABC (weighting 0.88);
- Conesto is currently ranked 39th in the world and is a member of confederation QRS (weighting 0.98);
- Delphiz is currently ranked 30th in the world and is a member of confederation HIJ (weighting 0.94).
A friendly match is played between Amplistan and Bestrudia. Amplistan wins 2–1.
|Match||Team||Result points||Match status||Opposition strength||Regional strength||Ranking points|
|Amplistan vs. Bestrudia (friendly)
Bestrudia gets no ranking points because it lost the game, so all factors are multiplied by zero.
Amplistan’s 141 ranking points are calculated like this:
- 3 points for the win;
- multiplied by 1.0 for match status (friendly match);
- multiplied by 0.50 for opposition strength (Bestrudia is ranked 188th, so it has the minimum 0.50 weighting);
- multiplied by 0.94 for regional strength (the average of the weightings for the two teams’ confederations);
- multiplied by 100.
|Match||Team||Result points||Match status||Opposition strength||Regional strength||Ranking points|
|Amplistan vs. Bestrudia (friendly)
|Amplistan vs. Bestrudia (friendly)
|Amplistan vs. Bestrudia (World Cup finals)
|Amplistan vs. Bestrudia (World Cup finals)
Result: 1–1 (Bestrudia wins on penalties)
|Amplistan vs. Conesto (friendly)
|Conesto vs. Delphiz (Continental cup qualifiers)
|Conesto vs. Delphiz (Continental cup qualifiers)
|Conesto vs. Amplistan (World Cup finals)
Result: 0–0 (Amplistan wins on penalties)
Conesto gets more points than Bestrudia for defeating the same team (Amplistan) because of the higher weighting of its confederation.
1999–2006 calculation method
In 1999 FIFA introduced a revised system of ranking calculation, incorporating many changes in response to criticism of inappropriate rankings. For the ranking all matches, their scores and importance were all recorded, and were used in the calculation procedure. Only matches for the senior men’s national team were included. Separate ranking systems were used for other representative national sides such as women’s and junior teams, for example the FIFA Women’s World Rankings. The women’s rankings were, and still are, based on a procedure which is a simplified version of the Football Elo Ratings.
1993–1999 calculation method
The ranking formula used from 1993–1999 was very simplistic and quickly became noticed for its lack of supporting factors. Teams received 3 points for a win and 1 point for a draw.
Each year FIFA hands out two awards to its member nations, based on their performance in the rankings. They are;
Team of the Year
Team of the Year is awarded to the team whose best seven matches of the year received the greatest number of points overall. The table below shows the three best teams of each year.
|Year||First place||Second place||Third place|
Best Mover of the Year
The Best Mover of the Year was awarded to the team who made the best progress up the rankings over the course of the year. In the FIFA rankings, this is not simply the team that has risen the most places, but a calculation is performed in order to account for the fact that it becomes progressively harder to earn more points the higher up the rankings a team is. The calculation used is the number of points the team has at the end of the year (z) multiplied by the number of points it earned during the year (y). The team with the highest index on this calculation received the award. The table below shows the top three best movers from each year.
The award has not been an official part of the awards since 2006.
|Year||First place||Second place||Third place|
|1995||Jamaica||Trinidad and Tobago||Czech Republic|
|1997||Yugoslavia||Bosnia and Herzegovina||Iran|
|2004||China PR||Uzbekistan||Côte d’Ivoire|
While an official award has not been made for movements since 2006, FIFA has released a list of the ‘Best Movers’ in the rankings since 2007. However, the calculation methodology had changed to the difference in ranking points over the course of the year (rather than the methodology used in the official award from 1993 to 2006). The results for latter years are based on a similar methodology.
|Year||Best mover||Second best||Third best|
Rankings are published monthly, usually on a Wednesday. The deadline for the matches to be considered is usually the Thursday prior to the release date, but after major tournaments, all games up to the final are included. No rankings are released in June or early July due to the 2010 World Cup taking place.
|Rankings Schedule 2010|
†: The rankings based on games played before the end of January and February were released the following month.
World Football Elo Ratings
The World Football Elo Ratings (Elo is often pronounced E-L-O despite not being an initialism) is a ranking system for men’s national teams in football. The method used to rank teams is based upon the Elo rating system method but modified to take various football-specific variables into account. Elo should not be confused with the FIFA World Rankings, which is more prevalent because it is the rating system used by the international governing body of football to rank men’s national teams.
The ratings take into account all international “A” matches for which results could be found. Ratings tend to converge on a team’s true strength relative to its competitors after about 30 matches. Ratings for teams with fewer than 30 matches should be considered provisional.
Top 60 ranking
Current table, as of 7 July 2010, of the World Football Elo rankings, compiled by the World Football Elo Ratings web site as of 5 July 2010 and updated according to formula.
Top 10 since 1970
The following is a list of the national teams with the highest average Elo score from January 1, 1970 to July 1, 2010. See Strongest football nations by Elo Ratings for a top 50 and for tables of the Strongest teams per decade since 1910.
|Rank||Country||Average Elo rating|
List of number one teams
The following is the list of nations who have achieved the number one position on the World Football Elo Ratings in the last five years:
|Start Date||Nation||# of days|
|June 29, 2005||Brazil||102|
|October 9, 2005||Netherlands||3|
|October 12, 2005||Brazil||265|
|July 4, 2006||Italy||43|
|August 16, 2006||France||52|
|October 7, 2006||Brazil||122|
|February 6, 2007||France||1|
|February 7, 2007||Brazil||140|
|June 27, 2007||France||14|
|July 11, 2007||Argentina||4|
|July 15, 2007||Brazil||334|
|June 13, 2008||Brazil / Netherlands||2|
|June 15, 2008||Netherlands||6|
|June 21, 2008||Spain||368|
|June 24, 2009||Brazil||373|
|July 2, 2010||Netherlands||1|
|July 3, 2010||Netherlands / Spain||3|
|July 6, 2010||Netherlands||1|
|July 7, 2010||Spain||–|
Ranking by days as leader since January 1, 2000
|Nation||# of days||Last Date as Leader|
|Brazil||1878||1 July 2010|
|France||1115||10 July 2007|
|Argentina||316||14 July 2007|
|Netherlands||109||6 July 2010|
|Italy||43||15 August 2006|
|Czech Republic||8||7 June 2005|
All-time highest ratings
The following is a list of national football teams ranked by their highest Elo score ever reached.
|1||Hungary||2166||30 June 1954|
|2||Brazil||2153||17 June 1962|
|3||Argentina||2117||3 April 1957|
|4||Spain||2111||7 July 2010|
|5||France||2106||15 August 2001|
|6||Netherlands||2100||6 July 2010|
|7||Germany||2099||4 September 1974 (as West Germany)|
|8||Italy||2079||20 July 1939|
|9||Poland||2046||1 September 1974|
|10||England||2041||22 October 1966|
|11||Uruguay||2035||13 June 1928|
|12||Russia||2023||9 October 1983 (as Soviet Union)|
|13||Czech Republic||1999||27 June 2004|
|14||Austria||1998||31 May 1934|
|15||Portugal||1983||15 November 2000|
|16||Croatia||1967||11 July 1998|
|17||Serbia||1962||25 June 1998 (as FR Yugoslavia)|
|18||Denmark||1960||13 June 1986|
|19||Scotland||1953||10 March 1888|
|20||Sweden||1950||25 June 1950|
|21||Mexico||1936||19 June 2005|
|22||Paraguay||1932||21 February 1954|
|23||Belgium||1916||9 September 1981|
|24||Norway||1914||13 June 2000|
|=25||Colombia||1911||20 February 1994 & 5 June 1994|
|=25||Romania||1911||9 June 1990|
This system, developed by Hungarian-American mathematician Dr. Árpád Élő, is used by FIDE, the international chess federation, to rate chess players, and by the European Go Federation, to rate Go players. In 1997 Bob Runyan adapted the Elo rating system to international football and posted the results on the Internet. He was also the first maintainer of the World Football Elo Ratings web site.
The Elo system was adapted for football by adding a weighting for the kind of match, an adjustment for the home team advantage, and an adjustment for goal difference in the match result.
The factors taken into consideration when calculating a team’s new rating are:
- The team’s old rating
- The considered weight of the tournament
- The goal difference of the match
- The result of the match
- The expected result of the match
The different weights of competitions in descending order are:
- World Cup Finals
- Continental championships finals and Intercontinental tournaments
- World Cup and Continental championship qualifiers
- All other tournaments
- Friendly matches
The single difference is Elo giving a special treatment for minor tournaments, while FIFA consider them as friendly matches.
These ratings take into account all international “A” matches for which results could be found. Ratings tend to converge on a team’s true strength relative to its competitors after about 30 matches. Ratings for teams with fewer than 30 matches should be considered provisional. Match data are primarily from International Football 1872 – Present web site.
Basic calculation principles
The basic principle behind the Elo ratings is only in its simplest form similar to that of a league, unlike the FIFA tables who effectively run their table as a normal league table, but with weightings to take into account the other factors, the Elo system has its one formula which takes into account the factors mentioned above. There is no first step as in the FIFA system where a team immediately receives points for the result, there is just one calculation in the Elo system.
The ratings are based on the following formulae:
- Rn = Ro + KG(W − We)
- P = KG(W − We)
|Rn||= The new team rating|
|Ro||= The old team rating|
|K||= Weight index regarding the tournament of the match|
|G||= A number from the index of goal differences|
|W||= The result of the match|
|We||= The expected result|
|P||= Points Change|
Status of match
The status of the match is incorporated by the use of a weight constant. The weight is a constant regarding the “weight” or importance of a match, defined by which tournament the match is in, they are as follows;
|Tournament or Match type||Index (K)|
|World Cup Finals||60|
|Continental Championship and Intercontinental Tournaments||50|
|World Cup and Continental qualifiers and major tournaments||40|
|All other tournaments||30|
Number of goals
The number of goals is taken into account by use of a goal difference index. G is increased by half if a game is won by two goals, and if the game is won by three or more goals by a number decided through the appropriate calculation shown below;
If the game is won by one goal
- G = 1
If the game is won by two goals
If the game is won by three or more goals
- Where N is the goal difference
Table of examples:
|Goal Difference||Coefficient of K (G)|
Result of match
W is the result of the game (1 for a win, 0.5 for a draw, and 0 for a loss).
Expected result of match
We is the expected result (win expectancy with a draw counting as 0.5) from the following formula:
where dr equals the difference in ratings plus 100 points for a team playing at home. So dr of 0 gives 0.5, of 120 gives 0.666 to the higher ranked team and 0.334 to the lower, and of 800 gives 0.99 to the higher ranked team and 0.01 to the lower.
The same examples have been used on the FIFA World Rankings for a fair comparison. Some actual examples should help to make the methods of calculation clear. In this instance it is assumed that three teams of different strengths are involved in a small friendly tournament on neutral territory.
Before the tournament the three teams have the following point totals.
Thus, team A is by some distance the highest ranked of the three: The following table shows the points allocations based on three possible outcomes of the match between the strongest team A, and the somewhat weaker team B:
Team A versus Team B (Team A stronger than Team B)
|Team A||Team B||Team A||Team B||Team A||Team B|
|Score||3 : 1||1 : 3||2 : 2|
Team B versus Team C (both teams approximately the same strength)
When the difference in strength between the two teams is less, so also will be the difference in points allocation. The following table illustrates how the points would be divided following the same results as above, but with two roughly equally ranked teams, B and C, being involved:
|Team B||Team C||Team B||Team C||Team B||Team C|
|Score||3 : 1||1 : 3||2 : 2|
Note that Team B loses more ranking points by losing to Team C than by losing to Team A.