In the latest world ranking results posted by FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, Roberto Martinez’s Belgium ended the year as the top-ranked footballing nation in the world for the third consecutive year, just ahead of world champions France. Belgium won six of their eight games this year and booked their place in next year’s UEFA Euro 2020 and Nations League finals.
Belgium became the first side to confirm their qualification for Euro 2020 after thrashing San Marino 9-0 in Brussels last year. Romelu Lukaku took his record international tally past 50 goals as Belgium opened up an unassailable 11-point lead over third-placed Cyprus. Their victory at the King Badouin Stadium matched their record winning margin of nine goals in 1994 and 2017 respectively.
In their Nations League campaign, Belgium secured a spot in the final four after thrashing Denmark 4-2. Youri Tielemans got the opener in the third minute, while Lukaku netted twice in the second half before Kevin De Bruyne scored in the last three minutes as Belgium won the group by five points. Earlier, Belgium ended England’s Nations League berth with a 2-0 winto seal their place in the final four.
According to the rankings released by FIFA, the Red Devils finished the year on 1,780 points, while the top four of the FIFA ranking remained unchanged, with France sitting in second spot, and Brazil and England retaining third and fourth place. European champions Portugal moved into fifth place. Japan were the top-placed Asian Football Confederation team on 27th. China moved one spot up to 76th.
They are followed by Iran (29th), South Korea (38th), Australia (41st) and the 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar (58th). Among South-east Asian sides, Vietnam (93rd) led the standings followed by Thailand (111th), Philippines (124th), Myanmar (137th), Malaysia (153rd), Singapore (158th), Cambodia and Indonesia (both 173rd), Laos (188th), Brunei (191st) and Timor-Leste (197th).
Only 352 international matches were held in 2020, the fewest since 1987, due to the coronavirus-related lockdowns compared to a total of 1,082 international games that were played in 2019, the most since the rankings system was introduced in 1993. The year 2021 will feature the rescheduled Euros and the start of qualifying for World Cup 2022 in Qatar.