A bad period for Martin O’Neill and his Republic of Ireland side is set to get worse when FIFA publish the latest World Rankings next week.
The Boys in Green look like missing out of the World Cup festivities next summer after picking up just three points from their last four matches, and they are now set to fall to their lowest ranking in the list since 2014.
ESPN have done the maths that suggest Ireland will slip from their current ranking of 29th, down four places to 33rd and outside of the world’s top 30 for the first time since last year.
Ireland were at their lowest ebb when O’Neill took over. Even the disastrous Steve Staunton era had them hovering around the 50th mark (they had actually fallen to 56th under Mick McCarthy in 1998) but by the time Giovanni Trapattoni had been removed from his post, Ireland ranked in at 67th in the world by the end of 20113.
Since O’Neill took over in November that year, Ireland have risen the ranks, though progress was slow in that first full year without the World Cup (even slipping to a record-low 70th at one point) and they finished 2014 in 64th place. By the end of 2015 they had taken an almighty leap to 31st place, helped in no small part by victories over Germany and Bosnia and qualification for Euro 2016.
At one point in 2016, O’Neill’s side looked to be threatening to break into the top 20, but a World Cup 2018 campaign (and the friendlies around it) that have seen Ireland pick up just one win in their last seven has seen them slide down the list.
One team who are set to break that top 20, however, are Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland. They have been in fantastic form throughout this campaign (as well as the last) and now look almost certain to nab a playoff place next month.
The report expects reigning world champions Germany to reclaim top spot in the table after being briefly usurped by Brazil in second. Euro 2016 winners Portugal look set to overtake Argentina, Switzerland and Poland into third, with Belgium also climbing over the latter two into fifth. France are expected to climb into eighth, with Chile and Colombia rounding out the top ten.
Despite winning their last two qualifiers, Gareth Southgate’s England are due to slip two places to 15th, being overtaken by Wales and Peru. Italy, meanwhile, are due to slip to 17th in the rankings – five down from August and equalling their worst ever position.
Expected September 2017 FIFA World Rankings
20. Northern Ireland
33. Republic of Ireland