Big Movers of 2001
Portugal changed places with European and World champions France on the strength of successfully negotiating the road to the next World Cup, while the French having qualified as champions were resigned to playing meaningless friendly matches and despite winning the Confederations Cup in South Korea and Japan narrowly missed out on finishing the year at the top of the rankings. England stormed into 3rd place while Sweden and Denmark also moved into the top ten.
Bahrain failed to qualify for the 2002 World Cup as expected but were the biggest movers after their shock 1-0 win away to Kuwait had taken them to the 2nd stage of the qualifiers where they held Iran to a goalless draw in Tehran before stunning the Iranians 3-1 in their return match to deny them automatic qualification.
Venezuela, normally the whipping boys of South America, proved to be a formidable force at home in World Cup qualifiers upsetting Uruguay 2-0, piercing Peru 3-0 and beating Paraguay 3-1, while on their travels they picked up a 2-0 win in Chile.
Martinique had a successful year beating St Vincent and the Grenadines 3-0 at home, to qualify for the finals in Trinidad & Tobago where they defeated their hosts 2-1 and Barbados 3-1 before eventually finishing 3rd.
Costa Rica moved up in the rankings after hammering Guatemala 5-2 in a Miami playoff to reach the final round where they qualified for the World Cup as group winners with a 2-1 victory away to Mexico and a 3-2 win in Honduras.
Senegal showed that they are an up-and-coming team by topping a difficult World Cup qualifying group that included Morocco, whom they held to a goalless draw in Rabat, and Egypt. The Senegalese proved that their success was not limited to their own continent when they got the better of Asian giants Japan 2-0 in a friendly played in France.
Lithuania will look back at the year and remember holding Italy to a goalless draw in Kaunas, and picking up another point in their 1-1 World Cup qualifier draw away to Hungary while beating Cyprus 2-1 in a Limassol friendly was also an achievement for the Baltic outfit.
Kuwait had a disappointing year losing out to Bahrain on the road to the World Cup after losing to them 1-0 at home and struggling to gain a 1-0 home win over bottom team Singapore who had held them to a 1-1 draw in the away match. The Kuwaitis also lost 5-4 away to Thailand in a friendly.
Paraguay finished bottom of their Copa America group below Peru with whom they drew 3-3 and only just qualified for the World Cup losing away matches 2-1 to Ecuador and 3-1 to Venezuela and ending the year with a huge 4-0 home defeat to the hopeless Colombians.
Switzerland had very little to cheer about, finishing above the Faroe Islands and Luxembourg in their World Cup qualifying group after losing their home matches to Slovenia and Yugoslavia, and getting hammered 4-0 in Russia. The Swiss fared no better in friendly matches letting in 4 goals without reply to Poland in Larnaca and losing 2-0 at home to Sweden.
Madagascar finished second from bottom in both, their continental qualifiers where the lost 2-1 at home to bottom team Namibia, and their World Cup qualifying group where they were comprehensively beaten 3-1 at home and 6-0 away to the Ivory Coast.
The most surprising result of the year came in Saint Martin where Anguilla recorded a rare win thrashing Montserrat 4-1 in a Caribbean qualifier.
Three new countries entered the rankings with St Martin the highest at 189th and moving up 8 places after losing only 1-0 to Cuba and overcoming Dominica 3-2 in Caribbean qualifiers in Guyana. Mongolia moved in at 194th and rose 6 places thanks to a respectable 1-0 loss to Vietnam and a 2-2 draw against Bangladesh in World Cup qualifiers in Saudi Arabia. Montserrat moved into 197th position.