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US climbs to 21st in FIFA rankings
By Associated Press
Oct 8, 2008 - 2:30:56 PM

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ZURICH, Switzerland - The United States climbed seven spots to 21st in the October FIFA rankings ahead of this weekend’s World Cup qualifier against Cuba.

The ranking announced Wednesday is the highest since June for the Americans, who had dropped to 31st in August, matching their low since 1997.

Cuba, which lost a qualifier to the United States 1-0 in Havana last month, fell six places to 98th.

With a victory Saturday in Washington, the United States would clinch advancement to next year’s final round of qualifying in the North and Central American and Caribbean region. After the match against the Cubans, the U.S. team plays Oct. 15 at Trinidad and Tobago, which dropped eight spots to 88th.

European champion Spain remained No. 1, followed by Italy and Germany. Brazil is South America’s best, advancing two spots to No. 4. The Netherlands and Croatia dropped a place each to Nos. 5 and 6. Argentina remains No. 7.

In the one change in the top 10, Russia moved up to No. 9 at the expense of fellow Euro 2008 semifinalist Turkey, which dropped three places to No. 13.

Mexico stayed at No.24.

ameroon continues to rise as the leading African nation, jumping two rungs to No. 12, two places above England. Israel advanced three spots to No. 16, its best ranking.

Japan leads the Asian Confederation at No. 32, with New Zealand making a leap to No. 54. Its two World Cup qualifying victories over Oceania rival New Caledonia helped lift the Kiwis 57 places.

Other nations enjoying best placings were Lithuania, up 17 places to No. 37, and Macedonia, up 10 to No. 46 after beating Scotland in a World Cup qualifier. The Scots took the biggest drop among leading nations, down 10 places to No. 26.

Counting toward the rankings were 125 international matches played in the past month, including 106 qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The next rankings are Nov. 12.

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