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Sports

Number-One FIFA Ranking Crowns Spain's Dream Year

In a surprise to absolutely no one, European champions Spain came out tops in FIFA's final 2008 rankings. How could it have been otherwise in a year in which La Seleccion won all of their matches?

Spanish players hold up the trophy at the end of the Euro 2008 final

It's official -- Spain were pretty darn good this year

The world's governing football authority made the announcement at its headquarters in Zurich on Wednesday, Dec. 17, honoring what has to be considered one of the most dominant national squads in the history of the sport.

Despite having gone 44 years without a major title, the Spaniards made short work of the competition at this summer's European Championship in Austria and Switzerland. The only blemish on their record, if one wants to call it that, was their victory on penalties over Italy.

Otherwise the team won all its matches in regulation time -- both at the Euro 2008 and in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

No fewer than nine of its players were selected for the Euro 2008 team of the tournament, including all four of the squad's regular starting midfielders and the competition's top goal-getter, striker David Villa.

Such was Spain's dominance that even Fifa's notoriously obscure mathematical formula for determining world rankings could not be thrown off track.

Spain earned 1663 points, almost three hundred better than 1381 racked up by second-placed Germany -- the team Spain beat in the final in Vienna to earn the Euro 2008 title.

Satisfied bridesmaids

Michael Ballack, right, celebrates win with teammate Simon Rolfes

Germany's young and old had a lot to celebrate, too

Germany fell short in that title match -- the game wasn't as close as the 1-nil final scoreline would usually imply -- but team potentates are still happy with the squad's 2008 performance.

In his end-of-the-year statement last week, the president of the German Football Association (DFB), Theo Zwanziger, said Germany had enjoyed a successful 2008, pointing out that his organized had invested in the future by building 1,000 new playing fields.

With Germany also well on their way to qualifying for the next World Cup, the only dark cloud on the horizon was the nasty public spat between national coach Joachim Loew and veteran midfielders Michael Ballack and Torsten Frings.

This autumn, after Frings was left out of the lineup for a couple of Germany's matches, Ballack publically accused Loew of lacking respect for older players. All parties insist the conflict has been resolved, which is probably true -- for now.

Risers and fallers

Turkish fans showing off some serious face paint

Turkey's fans can cheer the fact that their team is in the top 10

The Netherlands, which also had a strong Euro 2008, were ranked third, just behind Germany and above 2006 World Cup winners Italy, who mounted an uninspired campaign this summer in Switzerland and Austria.

Turkey also managed to crack the top ten, overtaking traditional soccer powers France, Portugal and the Czech Republic. Croatia and Russia are at seventh and ninth respectively, reflecting their good Euro 2008 performances.

The highest-ranked non-European team is Brazil in fifth -- a position that almost amounts to insult for the once-mighty Selecao. Still, Brazil football fanatics can take solace in the fact that the squad is still one place above hated rivals Argentina.

Cameroon are best-rated team outside Europe and South America, checking in at number 14 on Fifa's list.

DW.DE