Germany takes over at top of FIFA rankings from Brazil
ZURICH (AP) Germany is back at the top of world soccer, taking over from Brazil as No. 1 in the FIFA rankings which will have a greater role deciding how the World Cup groups are drawn.
FIFA announced a tweak to the World Cup seeding process on Thursday that means all four draw pots will be decided according to rankings.
Past World Cup draws have been made by geographical region after the host and seven highest-ranked filled a top-seeded pot.
On Dec. 1 in Moscow, Russia - currently No. 64 - and the teams ranked Nos. 1 to 7 in the October rankings will be the top seeds. The other 24 qualifiers will be in draw pots according to ranking.
Still, FIFA has included a rule which should ensure that the 2018 tournament draw follows the balance of previous draws very closely.
''No teams from the same confederation, with the exception of (European body) UEFA, which could have two teams in the same group, will be drawn into the same group,'' FIFA said in a statement.
The new rule would avoid what befell Italy four years ago. Despite just missing being in the top-seeded pot, Italy was picked out in a random draw of the nine non-seeded European teams to be taken out of the all-European pot. France was the lowest-ranked European qualifier but escaped being picked in that pre-draw lottery.
Italy was then eliminated from a tough group with England, Uruguay and Costa Rica, which stunned world soccer by finishing top.
In the September rankings, European champion Portugal rose three places to No. 3, while Argentina fell one to No. 4, and No. 5 Belgium climbed four places.
European teams, which each played two qualifiers, gained on their South American rivals and could have six of the eight seeded positions in December.
Poland is No. 6, followed by Switzerland, France, Chile and Colombia.
The best of the other regions include Mexico at No. 14, Iran at No. 25, and Egypt at No. 30.
FIFA's October rankings will also decide seeding for eight European teams entering two-leg playoffs in November.