Spain the new leaders
© AFP

Football has been at the centre of attention in recent weeks, which has had a major effect on July's FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking. New European champions Spain (1st, up 3) have claimed top spot for the first time since the ranking was introduced in August 1993, and in doing so, become only the sixth team to take that honour (together with France, Germany, Brazil, Italy and Argentina).

Although Italy (2nd, up 1) had a mixed EURO 2008 campaign, their performances were enough to retain a narrow lead over EURO 2008 runners-up Germany (3rd, up 2). Meanwhile, Brazil (4th, down 2) and Argentina (6th, down 5) - who had held the top spot since October 2007 - have lost considerable ground due to recent results in the race to qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™.

The Netherlands (5th, up 5) have taken advantage of the situation by manoeuvring themselves in between the two South American teams, but impressive showings at EURO 2008 have also seen Croatia (7th, up 8) and Portugal (9th, up 2) climb into the top ten, a feat that has narrowly evaded both Russia (11th, up 13) and Turkey (14th, up 6). Two teams - England (15th, down 6) and Greece (18th, down 10) - have slipped down the ranking and are no longer in the top ten.

There are also a number of major movers outside of Europe. Teams to have made striking progress in the top 100 include Nigeria (26th, up 8), Iran (37th, up 11) and Saudi Arabia (49th, up 5), as well as a raft of teams who have climbed 20 or more places: Burkina Faso (64th, up 47), Gabon (74th, up 20), Cuba (78th, up 26), Cape Verde Islands (85th, up 24), Suriname (87th, up 58), Kenya (92nd, up 23) and Korea DPR (94th, up 24). All of these teams have played between two and five 2010 FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers in recent weeks, winning at least once.

Both of July's biggest movers (Suriname and Burkina Faso) won all of their recent qualifiers. Chad (127th, up 21), Suriname and Rwanda (87th, up 19) are all in their highest-ever position in the world ranking.

You can view this month's full Ranking table by clicking on the link to the right.