x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Improvement expected as UAE jump 11 places in fifa rankings

The Whites move up to 71st on the ladder, one spot less to make players eligible secure work permits in England.

The UAE reached their highest placing for more than seven years when the Fifa world rankings were released yesterday.

Mahdi Ali’s side beat Hong Kong 4-0 in 2015 Asian Cup qualifying on Tuesday and that has seen them jump 11 places to 71.

Not since June 2006 have the UAE ranked as high, and their last higher ranking was in June 2004, when they were 70th.

It makes the Emirates the seventh-highest ranked team in Asia. Only Jordan (70) and Iran (49) rank ahead of them from the Middle East region.

Breaking into the top 70 would, in theory, make it easier for Emirati players to obtain a work permit in the English Premier League.

Al Ain’s Omar Abdulrahman has had a trial at Manchester City last year and was offered another by Arsenal in the summer.

Fahad Ali, the former UAE captain and now a television analyst, predicts further improvement.

“They are a young team and playing good football at the moment, and with more experience and matches, they have the potential to reach the top 50,” he said.

The new rankings mean Belgium and Switzerland will figure among the eight teams seeded for the World Cup draw, which takes place on December 6. The 2006 champions Italy and 2010 finalists Netherlands both drop into the second group of seeds, along with England

Italy have paid dear for last week’s 2-2 draw with Armenia, slipping four places in the rankings.

Joining Belgium and Switzerland are hosts Brazil, world champions Spain, Germany, Argentina, Colombia and Uruguay. Should Uruguay fail to qualify - they face a play-off against Jordan - the Netherlands will take their place.

The rankings are also being used to work out the seeds for Monday’s World Cup European zone play-off draw.

As already confirmed France, the 1998 World Cup winners and finalists in 2006, are not among the four highest-ranked teams, among the eight, and will face one of the four seeded teams – Portugal, Greece, Croatia or Ukraine.