Five nations you won't believe are above All Whites in FIFA rankings

By Chris Rattue

The All Whites have dropped from 49th to 150th since the 2010 World Cup.
The All Whites have dropped from 49th to 150th since the 2010 World Cup.

All Whites coach Anthony Hudson thinks he has got problems. What about these five countries, who are all above New Zealand in the FIFA rankings.

Curacao (FIFA ranking - 150th)

Like New Zealand, Curacao has two main islands, but in their case one of them is uninhabited. This leaves it with a population of about 150,000, less than that for Hamilton. This haven for cruise ships and scuba diving has done okay for itself financially but independence has not gone as smoothly as hoped - Prime Ministers have come and gone like managers do in world football. Former Dutch star Patrick Kluivert, whose mother is from Curacao, is the coach/technical advisor and has pulled in players from Holland which is the reason why he sounds confident that the tiny country can punch above its weight. But unlike Hudson, Kluivert doesn't even get a proper contract. Officially tied at 150 with New Zealand, although to split hairs Curacao have a very slight points advantage.
Federation: CONCACAF
Manager: Patrick Kluivert
Captain: Cuco Martina (Southampton F.C)
Matches in 2015: 10 (6 World Cup qualifiers)

Tajikistan (148th)

This mountainous place - population eight million - suffered five tragic years of civil war after the break-up of the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Economic links with China provides scant hope compared to the problems. The war left deep scars including widespread poverty (it is Central Asia's poorest country). Tajikistan is under autocrat rule and is racked by corruption, violence, border security issues, fears around Islamic militants and plenty of dangerous tension. Put it this way: football is Tajikistan's number one sport but the state of the national team would appear to be among the least of its problems.
Federation: AFC
Coach: Mubin Ergashev
Captain: Khurshed Makhmudov (Istiqlol)
Matches in 2015: 8 (6 World Cup qualifiers)

Guinea-Bissau (147th)

This tiny former Portuguese colony in west Africa is one of the poorest places on earth and is still recovering from civil war, coups and general political instability. Guinea-Bissau can feed itself and has potential, but mismanagement has turned it into a debt-ridden, aid-dependant tragedy. Football is its most popular western sport although wrestling has a particularly strong grip as a traditional part of village life. The national side had to play their home matches in Mali last year due to the Ebola outbreak.

Confederation: CAF
Coach: Paulo Torres
Matches in 2015: 3 - played their home matches in Mali due to the Ebola outbreak

South Sudan (139th)

Another country with a tragic history of colonialism and many years of civil war which is in a state of humanitarian crisis. Oil-rich South Sudan is the world's youngest country, winning independence from Sudan in 2011. However millions of people have been forced from their homes by subsequent conflict - they have been left without food, jobs and good water. Has a bit of a sporting knack though, particularly in basketball where its stars have included the late Manute Bol, one of the tallest players to ever grace a professional court in the USA.
Confederation: CAF
Coach: Lee Sung-jea
Captain: Jumma Ginaro (Al-Hilal)
Matches in 2015: 4

Syria (125th)

Needs no introduction as a war-torn tragedy enduring a humanitarian crisis. Five years of vicious civil conflict has destroyed a country under the rule of a ruthless dictator. Starvation, places under siege, a lack of water, millions of displaced people and refugees...the problems are dreadful and endless. Reports claim some of Syria's football stadiums have become military bases and detention centres - the national team must plays home games in Oman. The conflict has hit the team in many ways: players have fled Syria or are fighting for the opposition, and there is resentment over the use of the team as a propaganda tool for the Assad regime. (Coach Fajr Ibrahim wore a t-shirt bearing the smiling face of President al-Assad at a press conference). Yet the tragic circumstances also give the players a sense of purpose (according to a Guardian report) to unify their country.
Confederation: AFC
Coach: Fajr Ibrahim
Captain: Mosab Balhous (Dhofar)
Matches in 2015: 11 (6 World Cup qualifiers)

- NZ Herald

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