Brazil leads world rankings, US remains at No. 11

Oct 16, 2009 - 7:17 PM ZURICH(AP) -- The United States remained at No. 11 while Brazil again was on top of the latest world rankings published Friday by FIFA.

European champion Spain closed the gap on Brazil, the Confederations Cup winner, but stayed at second. The Netherlands followed at No. 3 while world champion Italy broke a tie in last month's rankings with Germany and now stands alone in the fourth spot.

Argentina's victories after late goals against Peru and Uruguay in the past week helped it climb two places to No. 6, ahead of England.

Croatia rose one place to No. 8 even though it was eliminated from the World Cup after trailing England and Ukraine in its qualifying group.

The current rankings also determine which European teams will be seeded in playoffs to reach the World Cup. The seeded teams for the playoffs to decide the final four European nations going to next year's tournament in South Africa are France, Portugal, Russia and Greece.

France moved up a place to No. 9, Portugal climbed seven spots to No. 10, Russia dropped six places to No. 12, while Greece is ranked No. 16.

They will be drawn against four non-seeded teams, led by No. 22 Ukraine, No. 34 Ireland, No. 42 Bosnia and No. 49 Slovenia.

The playoff draw will be made Monday at FIFA headquarters in Zurich. The home-and-away matches are scheduled Nov. 14 and 18.

The United States was ranked highest among the CONCACAF nations, while Mexico rose six places to No. 18. Both sealed their World Cup places this month.

Cameroon, which can clinch its place next month, heads the African nations at No. 14 after jumping 15 places. Ivory Coast, which has qualified, is next best at No. 19.

The top 20 includes 13 World Cup-qualified teams, and five more which have a second chance in playoffs. Only Croatia and the No. 15 Czech Republic are eliminated.

Denmark dropped 11 places to No. 27 despite winning its qualifying group this month.

Australia, which qualified in September, remained the best Asian confederation nation despite falling 10 places to No. 24.

New Zealand is the best Oceania nation and rose 17 places to No. 83. It is in a playoff with Asia's Bahrain to reach the World Cup.

World Cup host South Africa dropped 12 places to No. 85, while North Korea at No. 91 is currently the lowest-ranked qualifier.

A total of 192 matches - including 147 World Cup qualifiers - counted toward the rankings, which grades countries by their results over four years.

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