Lacklustre England slip to 17th in Fifa world rankings
Fall in rankings 'will invite further criticism of Roy Hodgson after dour World Cup qualifiers'
JUST how bad has British football become in the international arena? For the answer to that question take a look at the latest Fifa rankings.
Of the four home nations, England boasts the highest placing - a modest 17th. Next comes Wales, in 52nd spot, hardly something to shout across the valleys, while the Scots have slipped to 63rd.
Northern Ireland, despite the embarrassment of losing 3-2 to Luxembourg on Tuesday night, have actually climbed up the ratings - though don't hold your breath in Belfast. They are still in 89th spot, behind Libya, Jordan and Sierra Leone.
Not that they can exactly laugh out loud across the border in the Republic. The Irish find themselves in 59th position, clinging on the coat-tails of another Republic - Cape Verde, somewhere out in the Atlantic.
As the BBC points out, 17th spot is England's lowest position for 12 years, since the era of Kevin Keegan, which ended in his being replaced by Sven-Goran Eriksson. For the time being Roy Hodgson's job as manager is safe, but the Daily Telegraph predicts the slide "will invite further criticism of Hodgson, who has presided over an unconvincing qualification campaign for next year's World Cup".
Having said that, Hodgson's England climbed as far as the giddy heights of third in the Fifa rankings in August 2012, after reaching the quarter-finals of the European Championships. Their fall from grace is attributable to four draws from eight matches in their dour World Cup qualification campaign.
"The only times they have been lower in the rankings," points out The Times, "was between August 1994 and June 1996, when they did not play a competitive game as they qualified for Euro 96 as hosts."
Spain remain top of the rankings, a position they have held since September 2011, while Argentina - who qualified for the World Cup earlier in the week with a 5-2 thrashing of Paraguay - are up two places to second. Germany are in third, Italy fourth and Colombia fifth. Belgium, meanwhile, leap ten places into sixth spot, while Uruguay jump 12 places to occupy seventh.
England even find themselves lagging behind Greece, who may no longer have an economy to speak of, but still have a football team of some value. ·