Rankings (or numerology - the study of relationships between numbers and other things) in international soccer could be hotly debated for many hours; one thing remains certain though: rankings play a huge role in seeding nations for both UEFA and FIFA Euro Championship qualifier draws and finals.
Armenia could benefit greatly from improving their ranking position, making the road to major finals more straightforward than before. This article will investigate how this might happen.
The World Rankings
One could make the case that nations' mystical relationships with their FIFA ranking numbers is somewhat exaggerated; as an illustration, consider the US team in 2006. Ranked fourth worldwide by FIFA, they lost both opening games against Slovakia and Costa Rica before being drawn into an extremely challenging group including Brazil, Germany and Sweden.
Armenia will face an important two years, as their current rankings will determine their seeding in the 2014 qualification draw. Assuming performance levels similar to what they demonstrated during Euro 2012 qualifying games, this projection puts Armenia into pot five of qualification.
Armenia has historically struggled in such draws due to being placed with higher seeded teams. But this time around, thanks to their improved UEFA coefficients and rankings under Coach Minasyan's direction, Armenia should find it much simpler to qualify for finals competition.
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The UEFA Rankings
Are national ranking numbers really that significant? That is something worth discussing at length. One school of thought suggests that performances on the pitch should take precedence over any ranking numbers - an admirable and worthy sentiment that many managers likely share.
But with Euro 2020 qualifying berths on the line and an exceptional group of players under Minasyan's guidance, results must come first. Thus, both of their opening pair of matches against Gibraltar and Liechtenstein should be treated seriously.
As an illustration of how dramatically a win against highly-ranked opposition can alter Armenia's ranking position compared to a friendly, two hypothetical calculations are shown here. Both calculations assume that Armenia wins both opening fixtures; the rankings shown represent Armenia at each matchday; these calculations do not account for potential post-match wins or losses on Armenia's standing position.
The World Cup Rankings
Rankings play an integral part in football, yet they should never be seen as the entire picture. Indeed, they can sometimes be misleading; taking wins into account, an impactful home and away win against Slovakia in Euro qualifiers has far greater meaning than an easy friendly win against North Macedonia or Lichtenstein for example.
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However, ranking numbers should never be discounted and can help determine how far a national team goes in qualification processes for major tournaments like UEFA Euro 2016. In particular, qualifying draws for Euro 2016 take into account both FIFA ranking and coefficient values when selecting qualifying draws.
Armenia currently ranks 70 in the world but their impressive showing during UEFA Euro qualifying could see them quickly advance up the UEFA and FIFA rankings tables, potentially placing them into seeding pot 3 instead of 5. This would provide them with a much easier path towards one of international football's premier stages.
The Euro Rankings
Even though results and performances on the field remain key components of international soccer, ranking numbers also play a pivotal role. They help seed teams for World Cup qualifier draws as well as finals competitions.
Due to these considerations, achieving high ranking numbers can significantly enhance a nation's chances of qualifying for major tournaments like those hosted by FIFA or UEFA. Armenia has previously qualified in seeding pot 5 or above of both rankings schemes - something which Armenia has experienced during recent history.
Coach Minasyan could see Armenia's ranking number increase significantly with an improved Euro 2012 qualifying campaign and string of results, similar to what they achieved qualifying for Euro 2016. According to this projection, should Armenia repeat their performance from Euro 2016, they may even move into Pot 3 instead of Pot 5. This would significantly improve their chances of making one of sport's greatest stages.