RANKINGS THREE MONTHS BEFORE 2006 FIFA WORLD CUP
U.S. World Cup Opponents Czech Republic and Italy Stay Put, Ghana Drops to 50th
CHICAGO (March 15, 2006) – A little less than three months before the 2006 FIFA World Cup, the U.S. Men’s National Team received their highest ever position in the FIFA World Rankings, moving up one spot to fifth place. Their record-setting position puts them two spots ahead of CONCACAF rival Mexico and in front of such powerhouses as Spain, France and England.
While the U.S. was the only team in the Top 10 to move up a spot, their Group E opponents in this summer’s World Cup in Germany either stayed in the same position or moved down in the rankings. Czech Republic stayed in second place, behind consistent front-runners Brazil, while Italy stayed in 12th place, tied with Nigeria. Ghana dropped two spots to 50th place in the world.
Interestingly, every team in the Top 10 dropped in their point total, with the U.S. (764) and 10th-place Portugal (755) losing the least by dropping a single digit. The U.S. was actually able to leapfrog Spain (763) into fifth place as the Spaniards dropped two points this month, and is only one spot behind fourth place Argentina (765). Brazil still has a stranglehold on the top position with 835 points, well ahead of the Czech Republic (789), who is barely holding off the Netherlands (788). Below those top three it is a tight race as just 10 points separate Argentina and Portugal.
The U.S. has not been above eighth in the rankings since breaking back into the Top 10 in March, 2005. The 13-month stretch ties the USA’s longest streak in the Top 10. The U.S. broke into the Top 10 for the first time in August of 2002, after their remarkable quarterfinal run in the 2002 World Cup, staying in the exclusive club until August of 2003. The U.S. has been no lower than 12th place since breaking the Top 10 barrier in 2002.
The U.S. has begun 2006 in solid form, going 4-0-1 and netting 13 goals while only surrendering two. After drawing with Canada on Jan. 22 in San Diego, the U.S. has produced four straight victories against Norway, FIFA World Cup finalists Japan and Poland, and Guatemala, three by shutout.
The U.S. was drawn into Group E for the 2006 FIFA World Cup along with the Czech Republic, Italy and Ghana. The U.S. plays their opening match against the Czechs on June 12 in Gelsenkirchen before meeting Italy in Kaiserslautern on June 17 and then finishing off group play against Ghana on June 22 in Nuremberg. The U.S. has chosen the northern port city of Hamburg as their base of operations throughout the tournament.
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