The Spanish-speaking quartet of South American sides on show at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ all acquitted themselves well, their fine displays at the tournament being reflected on the latest FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking. While semi-finalists Uruguay have jumped to sixth, Chile to tenth and Paraguay to 16th, quarter-finalists Argentina have managed to improve to fifth.
Interestingly, this is the first time in almost a decade that four of the continent’s Spanish-speaking nations have appeared in the global top 20. Back in September 2000, the third-placed Argentinians headed a high-flying foursome that also featured Paraguay in 12th, Colombia in 15th and Chile four places further down in 19th.
And you have to go back to May 1998 to find three of the teams occupying positions in the top ten, with Argentina once again leading the way in sixth, above Chile and Colombia by three and four spots respectively.
Consistency pays off for Argentina
Though forlorn about their quarter-final elimination by Germany, Argentina still moved up to fifth on the Ranking, a position La Albiceleste had not held since June 2008, when they last topped the standings.
In recent times they have been nothing if not consistent, however, holding down a place in the top ten for the last 70 months. The only time the Argentinians have slipped lower than tenth since February 1998, when they fell to as low as 17th, was in July 2004, when they found themselves 11th.
Big strides for Uruguay
The biggest movers in the region are Uruguay, who have scaled ten places to sixth thanks in no small part to the adept stewardship of coach Oscar Tabarez in South Africa and the goals of Diego Forlan.
Having fallen just short of a top-three finish at the world finals, La Celeste can take consolation from the fact they have broken into the top ten for the first time ever, becoming only the fifth South American side to do so. The Uruguayans’ previous all-time high was 14th, which they held in May 1994 and again in August and July 2006.
Chile on the comeback trail
South Africa 2010 also marked the return of La Roja to the elite. Their eight-place rise took them back into the top ten on the fifth occasion in their history and for the first time since May 1998, when they occupied ninth spot.
While there is some speculation about his future in the post, few would question the role Chile’s Argentinian coach Marcelo Bielsa has played in restoring them to such a lofty position. They were a lowly 47th when the man they call El Loco took on the job in August 2007. Such has been Chile's improvement that they are now close to matching the sixth place they achieved in April 1998.
Paraguay knocking on the door
Coached by Bielsa’s compatriot Gerardo Martino, Paraguay made it through to the last eight at South Africa 2010, a run that has translated into a jump of 15 places on the Ranking, making La Albirroja the biggest movers in July.
The Paraguayans are back in the top 20 for the first time since June 2009, when they stood 13th. Though they are still some way short of the eighth spot they held in February 2001 and again in July that year, it would come as no surprise to see Martino’s high achievers threaten that all-time peak in the months to come.