Ranking Zonal Ranking Team Pts
24 1 USA 847 1 9 28 2 Mexico 790 0 4 57 3 Honduras 522 -3 -18 63 4 Costa Rica 490 3 0 64 5 Panama 480 -5 -35 78 6 Trinidad and Tobago 422 28 120 82 7 Jamaica 413 -3 1 85 8 Canada 403 -2 -4 86 9 Guyana 392 12 62 91 10 Grenada 375 34 180 94 11 Cuba 353 27 135 101 12 Haiti 335 27 148
That's the CONCACAF top 12, and you'll see that Canada has slipped into a precarious 8th after sitting comfortably in 7th the previous month. You'll also see some green arrows beside big numbers for the likes of T&T, Guyana, Grenada, Cuba, and Haiti. Maintaining a top 8 placing is important because it will likely mean a fairer semi-final round grouping if the as yet unconfirmed changes to the World Cup qualifying format occur.
In other words, those 5 countries made big jumps in the rankings over the last month. The reason? A little something called the Caribbean Cup, which serves as a qualifying tournament for the 2011 Gold Cup.
For the last decade, Canada has been exempted from having to qualify for the Gold Cup. The official reason given is that all previous winners of the Gold Cup (a list that includes the U.S., Mexico, and Canada) get a bye, fairly typically ludicrous CONCACAF logic. The real reason probably has more to do with saving money for the Caribbean minnows. This might seem like a benefit to the squad, and in some ways it probably is. However, what Canada misses out on is the opportunity to beat up on a number of small Caribbean nations.
Again, not having to travel to the Caribbean during non-international dates and play a number of very winnable and likely uncompetitive games seems like a boon to Canada. It would be, if not for the fact that the FIFA rankings are an ill-conceived and hare-brained statistical farce.
Have a look at how Grenada, the biggest mover up the rankings of the CONCACAF sides, gained their points over the last month:
Grenada 3:1 (1:0) Puerto Rico 22/10/2010 St. George's Continental Qualifier Grenada 2:0 (2:0) St. Kitts and Nevis 24/10/2010 St. George's Continental Qualifier
They played just two matches during the latest rankings window. Granted, both were comfortable wins, but over teams ranked 122 and 130 in the world respectively.
Some will quite rightly criticize the CSA for failing to schedule a friendly in the latest midweek international window. However, even a great result against a good side would not have yielded the bump this Caribbean minnows got. Because these matches are deemed "Contintental Qualifiers", the points available are several times what Canada gained for the recent results against Honduras and Ukraine.
I have belaboured the point, and ultimately Canada will need to beat the 5th to 8th ranked teams in CONCACAF. Whether it takes place in the semifinal or final round of qualifying is in the end unimportant. But I also bristle at the weight given to these rankings given their almost total lack of statistical honesty.
I can thing of no other system which so greatly rewards the easy plucking of low-hanging fruit.
By way of comparison, those 5 sides endangering Canada are ranked as follows by the much fairer ELO ratings (Canada 59th)
* * * * *
So you got that? FIFA rankings are bogus. This kind of tramples on my next point, which was to congratulate Canada's women for returning to the top 10 of the women's rankings.
This jump into 9th-placed was also largely on the strength of beating up on minor nations in women's football (Costa Rica, Guyana, Trinidad) in qualfiying matches, but also included a pair of important wins against rapidly improving Mexico. The placement is also a deserving reward for a team qualified into next summer's World Cup, something that can't be said for #1 U.S., who are defending a smaller gap to second-placed Germany.