FIFA RANKINGS: Northern Ireland on the rise again

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill
Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill

Northern Ireland have improved to 37th spot in the latest FIFA World rankings.

Michael O’Neill’s men have climbed seven places following last month’s 0-0 draw with Romania in their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.

It means Northern Ireland will be included in the pot of third seeds when the draw for the 2018 World Cup is made on July 25 in St Petersburg.

It has been a dramatic rise by the international side, which has coincided with a stellar Euro 2016 qualifying campaign that has O’Neill’s men sitting second in Group F.

Northern Ireland remain on course to reach next summer’s finals in France.

The country’s highest ever position in the rankings was 27th spot which they occupied in August 2007 and from April to June 2009.

But as recently as August last year, Northern Ireland ranked as low as 95.

There will be seven groups of six teams and another two groups of five in this month’s 2018 World Cup draw.

The nine group winners qualify for Russia and the eight best runners-up play off for a further four spots.

England and Wales will both be among the top seeds for the qualifying competition.

Wales’ highest-ever FIFA position sees Chris Coleman’s side ranked 10th in the world and England ninth, meaning both will be kept apart from each other and from the other top-ranked European sides in the draw.

Scotland, ranked 29th in the world, and Northern Ireland will be in the pot of third seeds for the draw.

The Republic of Ireland, ranked 52 in the world, will be in the pot of fourth seeds.