Despite failing to end a major-title drought that dates back to 1993, Argentina finished 2007 on a high after topping December's FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking and becoming FIFA's Team of the Year. It is the first time the Albiceleste have ended the year at the head of the Ranking, which this month sees two South American sides and eight Europeans occupying the top ten positions.
Read on as FIFA.com takes a look back at the movers and shakers of 2007, a year that featured a phenomenal 930 official internationals, the highest number played outside a FIFA World Cup ™ year and the fourth highest total of all time.
Argentinathere or thereabouts
Argentina took top spot in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking for the first time in March, although a month later they were ousted from pole position and found themselves back down in 5th place by June. However, the South Americans came back strongly and a month later were ranked second, a position they would hold until October, when they once again reached the summit. All told, top spot changed hands six times in 2007 before the Albiceleste made it their own.
Of the top ten sides, Alfio Basile's men played the second-highest number of official games this year: 16 in all, winning 11, drawing 2 and losing 3. The first of these reverses also happened to be the most painful - a 3-0 defeat to archrivals Brazil in the final of the Copa America Venezuela, although Argentina would gain a measure of revenge by pipping their conquerors to top spot in the end-of-year Ranking.
Argentina had never previously ended a year in first place, their highest finish until now being 2nd in 2001. Their achievement allows them to join a very elite group consisting of Brazil (who managed it from 1994 to 2000 and from 2002 to 2006), Germany (1993) and France (2001). It should also be mentioned that the Albicelestes have been ever-present in the world's top ten since occupying 11th spot back in July 2004.
However, if it is consistency you are looking for, then no team comes close to this year's second-placed side Brazil. The Seleção have never been lower than 9th since the Ranking was introduced in 1993 and, apart from third-place finishes in 1993 and 2001, have ended the year in pole position every time.
Europe's presence in top 100
Even though South American sides are currently first and second in the Ranking, Europe has sewn up the rest of the top ten spots. Six of these eight sides - Italy, Germany, Czech Republic, France, Portugal and the Netherlands - also finished in the top ten last year, while England and Nigeria were unable to match their exploits of 2006 and make way for Spain and Croatia. The Iberians find themselves back among the end-of-year top ten for the first time since 2005 (when they finished 4th), while the eastern Europeans have to go back even further (1999) for such a lofty finish (9th).
Such is the concentration of European sides in the upper reaches of the Ranking that you have to go down 15th place to find the next non-UEFA side, Mexico. El Tri finished the year as CONCACAF's best-placed team, ahead of archrivals USA (19th), just as they have done in the 14 previous years the Ranking has been in use.
With regard to the other confederations, Nigeria (20th) and New Zealand (94th) end the year as the best-placed sides in the CAF and OFC respectively. And while the Africans failed to emulate their 2006 standing (9th), the Kiwis' finish represents a jump of 37 places in just 12 months. There was also plenty of movement in Asia, where Japan (34th) replaced 2006 leaders Iran as the AFC's top-ranked side.
All told, the top 100 consists of 43 UEFA sides (of the 53 affiliated to FIFA), 26 from the CAF, 11 from the AFC, 10 from the CONCACAF, 9 the CONMEBOL and one from the OFC.
The rise of the Mambas
Mozambique took the honours in the Best Mover of the Year category thanks to the 245 points accrued in 2007 (up from 174 points to 419). That points haul led to a jump of 53 places to number 75, making the Mambas one of the Africa's top-15 sides. It is the fifth time a CAF nation has been the year's most-improved side, following the achievements of Ghana (2005), Senegal (2002), Nigeria (2000) and South Africa (1996).
Second and third in the same category were Norway and New Caledonia. The Scandinavians accrued 240 points this year to finish 29th (an advance of 21 places), while their Oceania counterparts managed 220 to move up 58 spots in the same 12-month period. For their part, Colombia (CONMEBOL), Turkmenistan (AFC) and Canada (CONCAF) were the biggest movers in their respective confederations, and special mention should also go to Spain and Croatia, who as well as being two of the most-improved sides of 2007, also broke into the top ten.