The release of a new set of FIFA world rankings is often a predictable day for the Worst in the World club. Frequently it’s merely a case of confirming another month added on to the tally of those stuck stranded at the bottom of the world. There is the occasional glorious escape confirmed, and the odd descent to the lowest rung decided.
Last month it was Djibouti. In the summer it was the Bahamas, and before them Anguilla. But every now and then a new ranking publication brings with it a flurry of worst in the world interest. On a good day, that means seeing the impressive rise of former member, now released from the shackles of the bottom rung. Bhutan were the last team to achieve this in spring this year with their incredible, historic and wholly remarkable wins over Sri Lanka in the World Cup qualifiers.
Djibouti had the chance to emulate them with a swift escape after sinking to the bottom only last month, but three defeats from three in the recent CECAFA Cup mean that Djibouti’s stay will be a little more prolonged.
But on occasion we get a whole raft of arrivals, and today is one of those days. Today we welcome not one, but three teams to the foot of the world rankings as the results from four years ago that were keeping them afloat are expunged from the ranking scores.
In a slightly unusual turn of events, all three are completely new to the lowest step in FIFA, never having sunk so low before. Not since Bhutan arrived at the bottom in July 2012 have we had a brand new member in the worst in the world club. But this month we welcome Somalia, Eritrea and Tonga to the fold.
Somalia, like Djibouti, had been in CECAFA Cup action over the last couple of weeks. And like Djibouti they lost all three, conceding nine goals in the process and scoring none. They lost to Tanzania, hosts Ethiopia, and Rwanda in what was a tournament to forget for the Ocean Stars.
Their last result of note was a 0-0 draw with Ethiopia in World Cup qualifying in November 2011 – the result that has now been expunged from the rankings reckoning.
Unlike Djibouti and Somalia, Eritrea failed to make it to the starting line in the CECAFA Cup despite being members of the Central and East African federation. Ongoing political issues with the host nation Ethiopia meant that the Eritrean team were unable to attend, being replaced by guests Malawi. They did take to the field in World Cup action recently, losing to Botswana in the opening round of African qualifying. The bigger story there was that ten of their players refused to return to Eritrea, claiming asylum in Botswana.
Over in the South Pacific, Tonga were also in World Cup action not too long ago, playing host to the first round of Oceania qualifying. Their tale is similar. Three group matches, against Cook Islands, American Samoa and Samoa, all resulted in defeat. Their positive results from the same competition four years ago – a win over the Cook Islands and a draw with Samoa, in addition to their famous loss to American Samoa – have now gone from the rankings.
So we are now a club of six at the bottom of the world, with interest in the Caribbean, East Africa and the South Pacific. The new arrivals don’t come with a raft of impending fixtures however. Neither Somalia nor Eritrea entered the latest African Cup of Nations, and so we only have Djibouti to follow in that competition in the spring. And Tonga have no fixtures set for the time being.
But there are always intriguing and interesting tales to tell, and we will take a closer look at each of the new arrivals over the coming weeks.