World and European champion Spain leads the latest FIFA rankings on Wednesday, with European teams holding the top four positions as they prepare to begin qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.

Spain maintains its lead over Germany and England, and Portugal moves into fourth place above South American champion Uruguay.

Portugal beat Panama in a friendly last month, and Uruguay drew with France. Results from four years ago also dropped out of FIFA’s calculations.

Italy is No.6, followed by Argentina and the Netherlands. Croatia and Denmark complete the top 10.

World Cup host Brazil, which has dropped in the rankings while playing only friendlies this year, climbed one spot to No. 12.

Ivory Coast leads Africa at No. 16, ahead of qualifiers for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations this weekend.

No. 21 Mexico is the best in CONCACAF which resumes World Cup qualification on Friday. The United States rose three places to No. 33.

Japan leads Asia at No. 23. Australia is No. 25 and South Korea No. 27. All three play World Cup matches next Tuesday.

European teams start on the road to Brazil with 22 matches on Friday and two on Saturday.

Two improving teams, No. 20 Switzerland and No. 24 Slovenia, meet in Ljubljana after failing to qualify for the European Championship.

Belgium, which has become a fashionable choice to outplay its ranking, rose 13 places to No. 40 after beating its Dutch neighbour 4-2 in a friendly last month.

The Belgians begin on Friday in Wales, which was ranked No. 112 when the draw was made in Rio de Janeiro last year and was now No. 45.

New Zealand leads Oceania, unchanged at No. 95. Tahiti, which has qualified to play in the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil, rose 17 places to No. 119.

Keywords: FIFA rankings

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