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How did Poland ‘cheat’ the rankings to be placed in World Cup pot 1 ahead of England and Spain?

Have the Poles really gamed the system to end up top seeds in their group ahead of a host of superior teams?

Many would have been surprised to see Poland placed in pot 1 for the World Cup draw.

But just how did Robert Lewandowski and co propel themselves up the rankings?

Poland are ranked 7th in the world

AP:Associated Press
Poland are ranked 7th in the world

The World Cup seeds are based on world rankings and Poland are currently the seventh best team on the planet, according to the FIFA system.

That has proved controversial, with the likes of Spain, Uruguay, Colombia and England bumped down to second seeds as a result.

So are the rankings distorted or do the Poles deserve to be where they are?

Poland did finish top of their qualifying group, ahead of a Christian Eriksen-inspired Denmark team which hammered Ireland in the play-offs.

And this is, without doubt, the best Polish team in a generation, having reached the Euro 2016 quarter-finals before losing to Portugal on penalties.

But there is slightly more to it than that, as the world rankings are weighted to ensure that qualifiers have more significance than friendlies.

LIFE HACK: Dont play friendlies… also, have a Lewandowski

Getty - Contributor
LIFE HACK: Dont play friendlies… also, have a Lewandowski

From the end of Euro 2016 to the completion of World Cup qualifying, Poland only played one friendly, at home to Slovenia.

In contrast, England played five friendlies.

Due to weighting system, even if Gareth Southgate’s men had beaten Germany twice, Spain, France and Brazil, they still would have ended up with less ranking points than if they hadn’t played the friendlies in the first place.

The FA are reportedly aware of this but still decided that the experience the players gained from friendlies against the world’s top sides would prove more valuable than a superior world ranking.

On their part, FIFA have stated that they will revisit the ranking system after the tournament to see if improvements can be made.