England national team manager Gareth Southgate has said that he is targeting the world number one spot in FIFA’s rankings before the end of his tenure, which is widely expected to be at the end of UEFA EURO 2024, regardless of how far England go in the tournament.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference ahead of England’s final UEFA EURO 2024 qualifying match against North Macedonia in Skopje on Monday evening, the former Aston Villa defender outlined the target whilst being relatively critical of England’s lacklustre performance on Friday night when they defeated Malta by two goals to nil at Wembley Stadium.
“Am I driven by being ranked number one? Yes, because ultimately you achieve that through consistency and you’ve got to play well in the tournaments as well because the ranking points are higher in the tournaments,” Southgate said.
With reference to their performance against the Maltese, he said: “If you’re going to be the top ranked team, there’s no room for sloppiness or casualness, if we’re going to be a top team then the level of performance has got to be spot on every time.”
The Three Lions are currently ranked fourth in the world by FIFA, behind the FIFA World Cup finalists from 2022, Argentina and France, as well as five-time world champions Brazil. They have opened up a gap above the likes of Belgium and Portugal and could sneak ahead of the Brazilians in the next edition of the rankings if they beat North Macedonia and the Selecao lose at home to arch-rivals Argentina, as that would make it four without a win in CONMEBOL qualification for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. They face each other in a friendly at Wembley in March.
England’s highest ever ranking is third, which they first reached quite bizarrely between August and September 2012 before doing so again in October 2021. Their lowest ranking was 27th in February 1996, a few months before reaching the semi-final of UEFA EURO ’96.