ZURICH Qatar made the biggest move up FIFA’s world rankings in 2019, driven by winning the Asian Cup.
FIFA’s year-end rankings published Thursday put Belgium at No. 1 for the second straight year.
Qatar kicked off at the Asian Cup in January as the world No. 93 team, and jumped 38 places to No. 55 after beating Japan in the final.
Canada remains unchanged at No. 73, good for seventh place in CONCACAF. The Canadian men are 15 points behind No. 69 El Salvador, which stands sixth in the region covering North and Central America and the Caribbean.
The top six in CONCACAF come the June rankings book their place in the so-called Hex, the most direct World Cup qualifying route in the region. Canada will look to pick up points via international friendlies while hoping El Salvador stumbles.
Qatar, the 2022 World Cup host, has maintained the same place through a year that included playing as an invited team at the Copa America and in qualifying games for the 2023 Asian Cup.
Qatar, which has never qualified for a previous World Cup, is ranked higher than the previous host Russia was, at No. 70, when that tournament kicked off in June, 2018. Russia outperformed expectations by reaching the quarter-finals
FIFA has modified how rankings are calculated since the 2018 World Cup.
Japan also was among the biggest climbers this year, from No. 50 to being Asia’s top-ranked team at No. 28.
African champion Algeria made the second-biggest move, rising 32 places to No. 35 since the start of the year.
In Europe, Kosovo rose 16 places to No. 115. The next game for FIFA’s newest member country is a playoff round in March for the 2020 European Championship.
The Canadian women dropped one place to No. 8 earlier in the month, overtaken by Australia. The United States tops the women’s table followed by Germany and the Netherlands.