Belgium ends fourth straight year at the top

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Having seen just 352 full internationals take place in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, the fewest since 1987 (323), things were cranked up several notches this year as World Cup qualification attracted focus.

A total of 1,116 FIFA internationals were played across 2021, a new record, with teams making up for the loss of action a year earlier.

While the frequency of games changed significantly, one constant remains: Belgium leads the way once again, edging out Brazil by 2.1 points, while UEFA Nations League winner France finished the year third.

Australia's Socceroos remained in 35th place, the fourth-highest ranked AFC nation behind Iran (21), Japan (26) and Korea Republic (33). 

The Matildas remained in 11th in the women's rankings, placing them at number-2 in the AFC, one behind tenth-placed Korea DPR.

European champion Italy goes into 2022 in sixth having claimed 115.77 points more than in 2020, while Copa America winner Argentina are one place better off, improving on its 2020 points total by 108.51 points.

But the biggest improvement of the year has been recorded by Canada, whose ranking of 40th is the joint-highest it has ever been.

The Canucks reached the semi-finals of the Gold Cup and are well on course to reach only their second World Cup finals – and a first since Mexico 1986 – as they sit top of the CONCACAF qualifying group with six games to go.

Their 1,462.32 points is 132.32 more than last year, the biggest 12-month improvement of all FIFA nations.

Meanwhile, World Cup host Qatar heads into its big year just inside the top 50 at 48.


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