- Associated Press - Thursday, December 19, 2019

ZURICH (AP) - Qatar made the biggest move up FIFA’s world rankings in 2019, driven by winning the Asian Cup.

FIFA’s year-end rankings published Thursday put Belgium at No. 1 for the second straight year.

Qatar kicked off at the Asian Cup in January as the world No. 93 team, and jumped 38 places to No. 55 after beating Japan in the final.

The 2022 World Cup host has maintained the same place through a year that included playing as an invited team at the Copa America and in qualifying games for the 2023 Asian Cup.

Qatar, which never qualified for any previous World Cup, is ranked higher than the previous host Russia was, at No. 70, when that tournament kicked off in June 2018. Russia outperformed expectations by reaching the quarterfinals

FIFA has modified how rankings were calculated since the 2018 World Cup.

Japan also was among the biggest climbers this year, from No. 50 to being Asia’s top-ranked team at No. 28.

African champion Algeria made the second-biggest move, rising 32 places to No. 35 since the start of the year.

In Europe, Kosovo rose 16 places to No. 115. The next game for FIFA’s newest member nation is a playoff round in March for the 2020 European Championship,


More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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