Wednesday, May 7, 2008

High Ranked Soccer Nations with Small Populations

These are the nations in the top 50 of the current FIFA rankings with populations of less than 5½ million people, which is about the population of Wisconsin or Maryland.

  • 13 - Croatia - 4,453,500
  • 15 - Scotland - 5,116,900
  • 27 - Uruguay - 3,460,607
  • 28 - Norway - 4,752,735
  • 33 - Denmark - 5,475,791
  • 34 - N. Ireland - 1,741,600
  • 35 - Finland - 5,306,601
  • 37 - Moldova - 4,128,047
  • 42 - Ireland - 4,339,000
  • 48 - Lithuania - 3,369,600

My first thought was, how in the world did Moldova come to be ranked 37, above nations like Nigeria, Australia, South Korea, etc.? They've beaten Kazakhstan (122), Malta (135), Bosnia (62), Hungary (57) and Latvia (72), and had a draw with Turkey (25) in the last couple of years so they're not exactly beating world powers. FIFA rankings just don't make sense to me sometimes.

Anyways, it's interesting to note that all of the nations are in Europe besides Uruguay. Paraguay (24) was also close to making the list with just over 6 million people.

Kind of the opposite topic, but it's still surprising to me that India and China, who have 200 times the population of any of these nations, don't have better national teams.

If you jump up to the rank of 52 you could also include Wales, with a population of 3,004,600, which would mean that Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland would all make the list, along with the Republic of Ireland.

Along those same lines, the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Denmark, and Finland are doing very well with small populations.

Top 50 Nations From Smallest to Largest:
N. Ireland


  1. See here for a detailed explanation regarding Moldova's May 2008 ranking.

    Moldova will most likely be 50th in the July 2008 rankings.

  2. Thanks Edgar,

    That's a good, solid explanation. Doing well in important games like qualifiers and tournaments obviously means a lot in the FIFA ranking system.

    I didn't pick Nigeria, Australia, and South Korea for any good reason other than their reputation.

    I assume you support Moldova, if so, good luck to you in the future qualifiers, I always tend to pull for nations that are trying to make a name for themselves around the world. Moldova's WC qualifying group isn't too bad, Israel, Greece, Latvia, Luxembourg and Switzerland are definitely beatable for a nation like Moldova.

    Thanks for the insight,

  3. They're my second team. Sort of. I'm Romanian and Moldova is a former Romanian territory - same language, common history.

  4. Moldova's true world ranking is closer to 90 (see the ELO Ratings). They're 40th in UEFA's coefficient ranking.