The Netherlands lead the FIFA rankings for the first time after ending World Cup winner Spain’s 13-month reign at the top yesterday.
The World Cup runners-up last year rose to the top spot despite not playing last month. Spain lost 2-1 in a friendly to new No. 7 Italy.
Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk welcomed his nation’s status as the seventh country to lead the table in its 18-year history.
“We know it is tough to reach first place, but tougher still to stay there. That is a great challenge,” van Marwijk said.
The rankings take results across four years into account and have often proved difficult for fans to understand.
The current standings include points gained at the 2008 European Championships, which Spain also won. The Netherlands lost in the quarter-finals.
Van Marwijk said his team’s main focus remains qualifying for Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine.
“We have to stay realistic. This is a snapshot, not a tangible prize,” he said.
Europe holds the top four places, with Germany at No. 3 and England rising two places to No. 4 after also not playing. Their friendly against the Netherlands was canceled because of riots in London.
Copa America winners Uruguay stay at No. 5, but head Brazil, who dropped to sixth place after losing 3-2 in Germany.
Ivory Coast is the top African country at No. 15, tied with Japan, the best of the Asian nations. Taiwan dropped three places to No. 169.
Gold Cup winners Mexico lead CONCACAF teams at No. 20. The US rise two to No. 28.
New Zealand are unchanged at No. 94, the best from Oceania.
A total of 76 matches counted toward the latest rankings, including 60 friendlies and 15 Asian qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Additional reporting by staff writer