Big Movers of 1997
After months of research and experimenting the ranking system finally met with approval and was published in 1997. Movements were fluent as teams began to find their rightful places according to current form rather than reputation.
By the end of the year Copa America champions Brazil had claimed top spot in the rankings and undefeated Yugoslavia had moved into 3rd place after a string of impressive results which included a 2-1 World Cup qualifier win in the Czech Republic and the 7-1 and 5-0 demolition of Hungary in the play-offs.
Bosnia and Herzegovina punched above their weight and despite failing to qualify for the 1998 World Cup, ended their campaign with a 1-0 home win against Slovenia having earlier celebrated a 3-0 victory against group winners Denmark.
The Faroe Islands put their heavy defeats of 1996 behind them by beating Malta 2-1 home and away and holding their own against the big boys of their qualifying group to move up into a respectable position of the rankings.
Albania too, showed that they were no push-overs, losing 3-2 and 4-3 to the mighty Germans and going down twice to a single goal against Ukraine before registering a 1-0 home win against Northern Ireland.
Kyrgyzstan moved up in the rankings after their qualifying matches in Iran where they lost by the respectable score line of 3-1 to their hosts before overcoming Syria 2-1 and hitting the Maldives for 6 without reply.
Benin proved difficult to beat as they drew at home to Algeria and the Ivory Coast in qualifiers for the African Cup of Nations.
Congo had a good year taking 4 points from neighbours Zaire but narrowly missing out on the World Cup finals due to a 1-0 loss in South Africa whom they had earlier defeated 2-0 in their home fixture.
Tajikistan conceded only one goal in competitive matches losing at home to China whom they held to a draw in their away match.
Kazakhstan eased past Iraq and Pakistan in their first-round group and despite being let down by their away form were undefeated at home drawing 1-1 against South Korea, Japan and Uzbekistan, and beating the UAE 3-0 in their unsuccessful quest to reach the 1998 World Cup.
Georgia kept a clean sheet at home in a tough World Cup qualifying group holding Italy to a draw and embarrassing Poland with 3 goals to finish above them in the group. Armenia also felt the Tbilisi force as they were thumped 7-0 in a friendly.
Peru reached the 1997 Copa America semi-finals with a 2-1 win over Argentina in Bolivia and narrowly missed out on qualification for the 1998 World Cup despite a 1-0 win away to Colombia and 2-1 home wins against Uruguay and Chile.
Kenya may not have qualified for the 1998 African Cup of Nations, but drew home and away against the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon and gave a good account of themselves in their World Cup qualifying group drawing 1-1 at home to group winners Nigeria.
Sweden on the other hand had a dismal year, struggling to beat Estonia in both matches and only managing narrow wins against Latvia and Belarus before falling in Vienna to a single goal which gave Austria leadership of the group taking them to the World Cup with Scotland instead of the Swedes who had also been unimpressive in friendly matches drawing at home to Poland and away to Thailand earlier in the year.
Ivory Coast had a weak run in qualifying for the African Cup of Nations scoring only once in 2 matches against bottom of the group Benin and in friendly matches against Burkina Faso drew blanks at home and lost 2-0 in Ouagadougou at the end of the year.
Vietnam lost 4-0 at home to Turkmenistan and in both matches against Tajikistan to finish bottom of their World Cup qualifying group and suffered defeats in friendly matches played in Malaysia including a 6-0 drubbing at the hands of Zimbabwe.
The Maldives moved to the bottom of the pile after letting in a staggering total of 59 goals in 6 World Cup qualifiers including 17 in their first ever qualifier against the merciless Iranians in Syria.