Ireland leapfrogged by Gabon in Fifa world rankings

Martin O’Neill’s side sandwiched between Burkina Faso and Bulgaria in 65th spot

The Republic of Ireland have been leapfrogged by Gabon in the latest Fifa world rankings.

Martin O’Neill’s side now lie in 65th position, sandwiched between Burkina Faso and Bulgaria. Gabon’s 4-2 win over Lesotho late last November is presumably the reason for their jump from 65th to joint 62nd place, alongside Togo.

World champions Germany, Ireland’s Euro 2016 qualification Group D rivals, remain the highest ranked side, while Scotland and Poland lie in 36th and 41st spots respectively.

Northern Ireland jumped a place into 47th thanks to Zambia dropping four places following their 1-0 defeat to South Africa in Johannesburg on January 4th.


Since the rankings were first introduced in 1993, the lowest Ireland have ever been is 70th place in June and July last year. Their lowest average yearly ranking was 67th in 2013.

What this means is that, despite a resurgence on the pitch and legitimate hopes of qualification for France 2016, Ireland are enjoying their worst ever spell in the unfathomable world of the Fifa world rankings.

Reflect standard?

The current ranking doesn’t seem to tally with the standard of football and results being produced by O’Neill’s side. Indeed, despite being 25 places behind the Cape Verde Islands, you would fancy them to beat the Tubaroes Azuis over two legs.

Rewind 20 years, though, and Ireland’s place in the rankings was a more generous reflection of their standing in world football.

In the first month of the official rankings, way back in August 1993, Jack Charlton’s side were a heady sixth place, and were sitting pretty in 13th spot when qualification for the 1994 World Cup in the US was achieved after a 1-1 draw with Northern Ireland.

Before the tournament, Ireland slipped to a lowly 17th, but by November they were back up to eighth position.

The mid-1990s saw Ireland slip down the table. When they missed out on qualification for the 1998 World Cup following a play-off defeat to Belgium in October 1997 they were down to 43rd, which was an improvement on their 55th place in August.

The late 1990s saw a steady improvement under Mick McCarthy. When the team missed out on qualification for Euro 2000 after losing to Turkey on away goals in the play-off in November 1999, they were up to 36th.

Into the new millennium and Ireland’s ascension continued, with average rankings of 17th in 2001 and 14th in 2002 reflecting a strong World Cup qualification campaign and strong showings in Japan and South Korea.

Missed Portugal

Mick McCarthy was sacked after a poor start to Euro 2004 qualification and

Brian Kerr

took the reins. But despite missing out on a ticket to the Euros in Portugal, Ireland remained 15th in October 2004.

After the doomed qualification attempt for the 2006 World Cup in Germany, Ireland remained a respectable 21st position in October 2005, but then proceeded to slump dramatically. By March 2007 they were down in 51st spot.

At the end of two more unsuccessful qualification campaigns in November 2007 and November 2009, Ireland remained stuck down the rankings in 35th and 36th positions.

Ireland were back up to the dizzying heights of 18th just before the ill-fated Euro 2012 finals, but it’s been all downhill since then. And so they sit in 65th, beneath mighty Gabon.

2016 chances

So, what does this mean for Ireland’s Euro 2016 qualification prospects?

The team were 13th when they qualified for the ’94 World Cup, 18th on qualification for Japan and South Korea, and 21st when they beat Estonia to make it to Euro 2012.

If the Fifa rankings are any real barometer of a team’s chances, then things are looking ominous for Martin O’Neill’s men.

Patrick Madden

Patrick Madden

Patrick Madden is a former sports journalist with The Irish Times