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The 2010 World Cup hosts South Africa have something to smile about, an early Christmas present in the form of an improvement on the latest FIFA rankings.

Carlos Alberto Parreira’s charges leaped one position in the latest rankings, and are now 85th in the world. The new table was released by the football governing body yesterday.

Bafana Bafana moved up a place after the draws against Japan and Jamaica in two recent international friendlies under Parreira after Joel Santana was shown the exit door following a string of poor results.

South Africa’s Group A counterparts for next year’s football showpiece, France, are ranked seventh while Greece are on position 12 and Uruguay are within the top 20 in position 19.

Cameroon, who lie in 11th place, and Ivory Coast on 16th, Nigeria (22nd), Egypt (24th) and Algeria (26th) remain the highest ranked African countries. This is the Algerians’ best position since the rankings were launched in 1993.

Meanwhile, Spain are ranked number one for the second straight year. The Netherlands and world champions Italy stayed third and fourth as the top 10 remained unchanged.

World Cup qualifiers New Zealand dropped five places but still lead the Oceania region at 82.

Clyde Tlou, Goal.com

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