Malta was the third most improved side in 2020 after the final FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking for the calendar year was published on Thursday.
FIFA announced that the team with the most progress in 2020 were Hungary (40th), after a gain of 44 points and 12 places allowed them to end the year in the top 50. In eight matches played in 2020, the Magyars lost just once. Ecuador were the second best mover (56th, + 41 points compared to December 2019) and third Malta (176th, + 32 points).
Malta had ended 2019 in the 184th place but went down to 186th in August but a series of positive results between September and November enabled Malta to climb to 176th.
This calendar year, Malta lost just one match – a 3-2 defeat to the Faroe Islands in Torshavn in a game which marked the debut as national team head coach for Devis Mangia but then earned the first point in the UEFA Nations League thanks to a 1-1 draw with Latvia at Ta’ Qali. IN October, Malta played three matches, defeating Gibraltar 2-0 in a friendly match, holding Andorra in a goalless draw away from home and beating Latvia in Riga 1-0. Last month, Malta played another three matches, defeating Liechtenstein 3-0 in a friendly match, Andorra 3-1 and being held in a 1-1 draw by the Faroe Islands in the final match from the UEFA Nations League.
Meanwhile a total of just 352 matches took place in 2020, compared to the 1082 full internationals which were played in 2019. Not since 1987 (323 matches), have so few fixtures taken place in a calendar year. And while 2020 has certainly had major disruptions, Belgium still managed to claim the title of FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking Team of the Year for the third consecutive time.
Winners of six of their eight matches in 2020, the Red Devils are not the only ones to see their position unchanged. Their three immediate pursuers – France (2nd), Brazil (3rd) and England (4th) – retain their respective rankings. The only change in the top five compared to 2019 is the appearance of Portugal in 5th place.
Next in the standings are Spain (6th) and Argentina (7th), both of which have improved two places compared to last year. Uruguay (8th) have regressed but remain in the Top 10, while Mexico and Italy again occupy 9th and 10th place.