Many a time, a lot of Nigerians tend to disregard the monthly FIFA Rankings.
You often hear “the ranking is of little or no importance”, but with the FIFA 2018 World Cup draw to be held on December 1st at State Kremlin Palace in Moscow Russia, Nigerians must now know how imperative the ranking is, as FIFA would seed teams based on the OCTOBER 16th rankings.
The Super Eagles moved up three places to 41st spot in the October FIFA rankings released on Monday 16th. Nigeria is 5th in Africa. Nigeria will be grouped alongside other low-level ranked representatives from Africa and Asia in the last pot at the draw ceremony based on their October FIFA rankings.
Instead of one-seeded pot and three pots determined by logistical and geographical reasoning in previous years, FIFA has changed its ways, with all four pots determined strictly based on the rankings.
Entailing that aside from Host Russia, currently ranked 65th in the world, the remaining 31 teams are distributed in order of their October ranking. Russia goes into the pot 1, followed by the top seven-ranked teams, and the remaining 24 teams are spread into the three subsequent pots in order.
From the current 18th position among the 23 countries already qualified for the World Cup, Nigeria will certainly go to 23rd or 24th spot when four more qualifiers emerge from Europe. A further threat to Nigeria’s position will also come from Africa where either Tunisia (to be ranked 28th by FIFA) or Congo DR (to be FIFA ranked as 35th) will emerge from Group A of the African qualification phase.
Senegal also set to pick the Group D Ticket in Africa, will also be ranked 32nd, thus pushing Nigeria further down the world cup ranking. Pot 1 already set, with Russia the host and the top ranked 7 teams making the pot. The teams joining Russia in the top pot are: (Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Belgium, Poland and France.)
This pot is subject to no change Peru, Switzerland, England, Colombia, Italy, Mexico and Uruguay are the next seven nations either in the World Cup or still alive in contention. Should Peru, Switzerland, and Italy win their respective playoffs, then the pot would remain unchanged. Should any or all slip up, there would be an effect, and Croatia, Denmark, and Iceland are next in line to make pot 2.
Regardless, Pot 2 definitely will have Spain, England, Colombia, Mexico, and Uruguay. Pot 3 still largely unclear currently, but most likely to be in Pot 4 when all 32 teams must have emerged next month are Nigeria, Iran, Serbia, Japan, Panama, and Saudi Arabia. With these permutations of pots, Nigeria will likely have no easy draw come December 1.
As always, teams from the same region must be kept separate in the draw, aside from UEFA, where up to two European nations can be in the same group. For Nigeria, they could be grouped with Brazil/ Spain, Germany/Uruguay, Belgium/Mexico, these are not the official groupings, but possibilities, which realistically looks difficult for Nigeria with the top 2 teams in the group having to progress to the next round.
All of these must have shown Nigerians how big the FIFA ranking is, but all Nigerians can hope for is a good and better world cup come 2018 in Russia, and with good preparations, it can be achieved.
By: Timothy Dehinbo