Switzerland will be among the eight seeded teams at the World Cup draw in December after they leapt to seventh in the latest FIFA rankings announced on Thursday, while Italy were edged out.
Spain, Argentina, Germany, Colombia, Belgium and hosts Brazil will also be seeded, as will Uruguay, if they beat Jordan in a two-leg playoff next month.
If Uruguay do not qualify, Netherlands, joint eighth with Italy in the rankings, will take their place among the seeds.
FIFA previously ruled that Brazil (ranked 11th on Thursday) plus the top seven ranked teams would be seeded for the draw at the Costa da Sauipe tropical beach resort on Dec. 6.
Portugal, Greece, Croatia and Ukraine will be the seeded teams in next Monday’s draw for the European zone playoff round, which also features France, Iceland, Sweden and Romania.
The Swiss, who completed their World Cup qualifying group unbeaten to reach the finals for the third time in a row, leapt seven places thanks to their wins over Albania and Slovenia this month.
Italy had been fourth but paid dearly for drawing 2-2 at home to Armenia on Tuesday.
FIFA have said that second, third and fourth seeds would be determined later. “The remaining pots will be based on geographic and sporting criteria,” they said.
There is likely to be more controversy over the complicated system used to calculate the rankings especially as Switzerland had arguably the easiest path to the World Cup of any team.
They faced Iceland, Slovenia, Albania, Cyprus and Norway in a group which saw Iceland finish second.
FIFA said on Wednesday that France had been “in contact” over the seeding system for the playoff round and had been told the rules could not be changed during the course of the competition.
Only two Asian teams managed to make the top 50, Japan (44) and Iran (49). Ivory Coast (17) are Africa’s top performers.