Hosts Russia will be the lowest-ranked of all the 32 teams at this summer’s World Cup, after FIFA’s latest international standings showed the team had slipped below opening game opponents Saudi Arabia.
Russia dropped to 70th in the official FIFA rankings released on Thursday – their lowest position ever and three places below the Saudis in 67th.
The pair meet in the World Cup opening game at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium on June 14.
Stanislav Cherchesov’s Russian team drew 1-1 with Turkey in their final World Cup warm-up game on Tuesday, and are without a win in their last seven matches.
The team have fallen steadily down the rankings in recent years, partly as a result of being deprived of competitive qualifying games as World Cup hosts, but also due to a run of poor run of form stretching back to the autumn.
Teams above Russia in the rankings include Burkina Faso in 52nd, Albania in 58th, Cape Verde Islands in 65th, and Guinea in 68th.
Russia will be hoping to make a mockery of the rankings when they face World Cup Group A opponents Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Uruguay – with the latter two countries ranked 45th and 14th respectively.
Most Russian fans would see getting out of the group as the main target, which would be a first for the country since it began competing independently following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Progressing any further than the last 16 would be seen as a major upset, given that Russia would most likely face either Spain or Portugal should they emerge from their group.
The World Cup hosts are 50-1 outsiders to win the tournament outright, but can perhaps take heart from previous underdogs who have defied the odds.
South Korea shocked the world when they went on a stunning run all the way to the World Cup semi-final as hosts in 2002, beating Spain and Italy along the way before losing 1-0 to Germany.
Denmark caused a seismic shock when they claimed the 1992 European title in Sweden – despite only entering the tournament after Yugoslavia were disqualified – while Greece won the same title in Portugal in 2004 after arriving as 150-1 outsiders.
The latest FIFA rankings saw reigning world champions Germany remain in top spot, ahead of Brazil in second and Belgium in third.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal are fourth, one place in front of Lionel Messi’s Argentina. Switzerland stay in a surprise sixth, ahead of much-fancied World Cup contenders France and Spain, who are in seventh and 10th places respectively.