England up to third for first time ever in Fifa world rankings

Despite failing to reach the semi-final of an international competition since Euro '96, Roy Hodgson’s charges move up with only Germany and world champions Spain ahead of them

England have hit an all-time high of third in the Fifa world rankings.

Despite failing to reach the semi-final of an international competition since the European Championship in 1996, Roy Hodgson’s charges now place behind just Germany and world and European champions Spain.

England did not play throughout the month of July, but jumped up the table one ranking following Uruguay, who were previously third, having points deducted due to their Copa America triumph last year losing importance.

The ranking system used by the world’s football governing body has been long mocked, with Fifa secretary general Jerome Valcke recently coming out in defence of the table.

Valcke told reporters: “I know that these rankings are sometimes quite difficult to understand, due to the level and numbers of criteria that are taken into account.

“There are teams who are playing more friendly games than other teams and you can see a difference which is not very logical, but the ranking, I would say, is clearly still a good picture of the level of international football.

“Brazil are not playing official games, just friendly games as they are already qualified [as hosts, for the 2014 World Cup].

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“There have been internal meetings and also with the football committee to discuss the ranking of the different nations.

"We want to be able to explain in an easier way how this ranking is based.”

Elsewhere in the August 2012 update of the rankings, five-time World Cup winners Brazil have dropped to an all-time low of 13th, while Portugal, Italy and Argentina are unchanged in fifth, sixth and seventh respectively.

The Netherlands, Croatia and Denmark make up the remainder of the top 10.

South Sudan are the latest new entry on the list, and the 209th nation overall, after drawing 2-2 with Uganda in their competitive bow, allowing them a 199th-place ranking.