Spain end perfect year atop world rankings

ZURICH - European champions Spain were unsurprisingly recognised as the top-ranked team of the year on Wednesday after winning every match they played in 2008.

The publication of FIFA's December rankings saw Spain stretch their lead at the top over second-placed Germany, the team they beat to win the Euro 2008 final in June.

The only match of the year in which Spain failed to register the maximum number of ranking points was their Euro 2008 quarter-final against world champions Italy which ended 0-0 after extra time before Spain won on penalties.

Netherlands, who like Spain and eighth-placed England, have made a perfect start to their 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign, climbed above Italy to finish the year in third place.

Brazil are the highest-placed non-European team, in fifth, their lowest ever year-end position.

In every previous year since the introduction of the rankings in 1992, Brazil have managed to finish in the top three, including 12 top-place rankings.

FIFA RANKINGS (November positions in brackets):

1. (1) Spain

2. (2) Germany

3. (4) Netherlands

4. (3) Italy

5. (5) Brazil

6. (6) Argentina

7. (7) Croatia

8. (10) England

9. (8) Russia

10. (13) Turkey

11= (12) France

11= (10) Portugal

11= (9) Czech Republic

14. (14) Cameroon

15. (20) Ukraine

16. (21) Egypt

17. (17) Paraguay

18. (15) Israel

19. (22) Nigeria

20. (18) Greece