Newly crowned world champions Spain have ended 2010 proudly atop the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, the third time in a row they have taken the Team of the Year title. Meanwhile, the Netherlands took the honours as the Best Mover of the Year, climbing to within just one place of the men in red. assesses the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking form of the two South Africa 2010 finalists and reports on the year’s other movers and shakers.

Spain eye Brazil mark
Starting the year in top spot, Spain were replaced at the summit by Brazil between April and May. In claiming their maiden world title at South Africa 2010, La Roja returned to the top in style in July, remaining there for the rest of the year despite heavy defeats in subsequent friendly meetings with Argentina and Portugal. Top dogs for the third time in succession, Spain remain on course to match the six straight Team of the Year distinctions A Seleção earned between 1994 and 1999.

The Brazilians were also Team of the Year from 2002 to 2006. The other national sides to have received the accolade since the Ranking’s creation are Germany (in 1993), the Netherlands (2000), Honduras (2001) and Argentina (2007). In 2000 and 2001 the distinction was awarded to the side earning the highest number of points from their best seven matches of the year.

Two up, two down
There are two notable absentees from the teams that formed the top ten 12 months ago: Italy have dropped from fourth to 14th, while France have slipped from seventh to 18th. This is the sixth time that the Italians have failed to finish the year among the leading ten sides and the first since 2005. In contrast Les Bleus have only suffered this fate twice before, the previous occasion coming in 2008. This is also France’s second-lowest December ranking after the modest 19th place in which they saw out 1994.

Their places in the elite have now been taken by Uruguay and Egypt, who in the course of 2010 have risen from 20th and 24th respectively to seventh and ninth. Neither La Celeste nor the Pharaohs have previously found themselves in such a lofty position at a year’s end.

Riding high
The title of Best Mover of the Year is granted to the team earning the most points in a calendar year. The 2,376 points the Netherlands picked up in beating Brazil in the quarter-finals at South Africa was the main reason why they saw their overall Ranking haul for 2010 shoot up by 465 points. The only team to receive more points for a single win were Switzerland in beating Spain in the group phase.

The Dutch are the seventh European outfit to earn the accolade, the previous six being Croatia (in 1994 and 1998), Yugoslavia (1997), Slovenia (1999), Italy (2006) and Spain (2008). In 2009 Algeria and Brazil shared the title.

Joining the Oranje in the list of the top ten movers of the year are Montenegro (up 368 points to 25th place), Botswana (+316, 53rd), Germany (+312, 3rd), Cuba (+294, 62nd), Spain (+260, 1st), Central African Republic (+259, 111th), Niger (+257, 94th), Belarus (+254, 38th), and Argentina (+253, 5th).