The FIFA rankings are not the definitive measure of global strength. Really, is Switzerland the sixth best team in the world, three slots ahead of Brazil? Nonetheless, they do provide fodder for discussion as the World Cup approaches. Using the FIFA form updated today, here are how the first-round groups shape up:
23. Ivory Coast
35. Costa Rica
13. United States
61. South Korea
By adding the figures for each group, we can determine the most treacherous and easiest quartets — on paper, anyway.
Another way of looking at it is the degree of difficulty advancing to the knockout stage. To determine this, let’s drop the lowest-ranked team in each group because, after all, only two teams will secure passage and, in many cases, the weakest team at the start of play will fall from contention after two matches.
Using the two criteria, we pronounce G the undisputed Group of Death (good luck, Yanks), followed closely by B and D. The F and H groups provide clear paths for Argentina and Belgium, respectively.
FIFA will release the next set of rankings March 13, eight days after the last official fixture date leading to the World Cup.