The FIFA World Rankings have long drawn scorn from football fans far and wide. Criticisms have been wide-ranging, and there has never been an actual use or meaning behind the rankings – until now.
With the USA being as high as fourth at one point, the rankings have struggled for credibility.
Criticisms have also been levelled at inequities between confederations, with UEFA teams being weighted at 1.0, while AFC at 0.85.
FIFA has announced that it will use the July 2011 rankings to seed all teams in all Confederations for the 2014 World Cup draw to be held in Brazil at the end of July.
This is of great benefit to nations with generous rankings, especially in a Confederation such as UEFA.
According to Football Rankings, which makes accurate predictions regarding rankings and seedings, Norway will be seeded in the top UEFA pot due to their high FIFA ranking.
Had Montenegro, welcomed to the FIFA family less than five years ago, beaten Bulgaria in their Euro 2012 qualifier in Podgorica last weekend, they too would have been seeded in the top pot with renowned powerhouses such as Spain, Italy and England.
Instead, Montenegro will have to settle for Pot 2 with France and Portugal.
FIFA rankings place heavy emphasis on recent qualifying results, and Montenegro, the nation of 700,000 challenging England for first in their Euro 2012 qualifying group, have shot up the FIFA rankings of late.
Some Asian nations will also benefit due to their generous rankings. The AFC in the past has put their previous World Cup qualifiers as top seeds, meaning that DPR Korea and Bahrain would have joined Australia, Japan and Korea Rep in Pot 1.
However, both North Korea and Bahrain have relatively low FIFA rankings. This means the fourth-ranked China will be seeded in the top pot despite having a relatively awful footballing history.
The other beneficiary would be Iran, who are also rewarded despite recent underachievement.
Hungary have recently struggled in all UEFA qualifiers, recently labouring to victories over the likes of Liechtenstein and Luxembourg to build FIFA ranking points, but it has worked in their favour.
They will earn a spot in Pot 3, ahead of the likes Scotland, Romania and Poland, all a pot below them but arguably better football teams.
The biggest injustice arguably will occur to Wales, whose FIFA ranking has plummeted below the likes of Faroe Islands (Pot 5), having not registered a win in a competitive match in almost six years.
As such, Wales will be placed in Pot 6 with the might of San Marino, Andorra and Kazakhstan.
So what does all of this mean for Australia?
Simply put, Australia can benefit greatly from winning competitive World Cup qualifiers, and beating UEFA teams in friendly matches.
According to the aforementioned rankings analysis, if the seeding process for the finals of Brazil 2014 were to be conducted today, Australia would be placed in Pot 1, along with Brazil, Spain, Netherlands, Germany, Japan, Portugal and England.
Clearly the recent Asian Cup success has a strong influence on the formula used, as will the upcoming Copa America, 2012 and 2013 African Cup of Nations, and the almost finished 2011 and 2013 Gold Cups.
If Australia were to win almost all their 2014 qualifiers, and tactfully choose beatable UEFA opposition for friendly games (due to their 1.0 Confederation point ratio) perhaps we will not fall out of that first pot.
The FIFA rankings are now of incredible importance, Australia now has the opportunity to climb even further and reap the benefits.