Zurich, Aug 24 : The Netherlands leads the FIFA rankings for the first time after ending World Cup winner Spain's 13-month reign at the top on Wednesday.
The Dutch, World Cup runners-up last year, rose to the top spot despite not playing last month. Spain lost 2-1 in a friendly to new No. 7 Italy.
Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk welcomed his nation's status as the seventh country to lead the table in its 18-year history.
“We know it is tough to reach first place, but tougher still to stay there. That is a great challenge,” Van Marwijk said.
The rankings take results across four years into account and have often proved difficult for fans to understand.
The current standings include points gained at the 2008 European Championship, which Spain also won. The Netherlands lost in the quarterfinals.
Van Marwijk said his team's main focus remains qualifying for Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine.
“We have to stay realistic. This is a snapshot, not a tangible prize,” he said.
Europe holds the top four places, with Germany at No. 3 and England rising two places to No. 4 after also not playing. Its friendly against the Netherlands was canceled due to riots in London.
Copa America winner Uruguay stays at No. 5 but heads Brazil, which dropped to sixth place after losing 3-2 in Germany.
Ivory Coast is the top African country at No. 15, tied with Japan, the best of the Asian nations.
Gold Cup winner Mexico leads CONCACAF teams at No. 20. The United States rises two to No. 28.
New Zealand is unchanged at No. 94 as the best from Oceania.
A total of 76 matches counted toward the latest rankings, including 60 friendlies and 15 Asian qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Vietnam moved up 15 places to No. 129 after beating Qatar 2-1 in the return match of a qualifier which cost Qatar coach Milovan Rajevac his job.
Qatar, the 2022 World Cup host, advanced 4-2 on aggregate against Vietnam and climbed two places to No. 88. AP