Armenia enters 2014 with its highest FIFA ranking since its inception to the governing body, but one has to wonder what this truly means for Armenian football. Though happy with a climb in the rankings from the mid 100s just a few years ago, can Armenia really consider itself an imposing opponent on the world stage?
Two impressive rounds of qualifying (Euro 2012 & WC 2014), the latest including a 4-0 win in Copenhagen over Denmark, has brought this small nation footballing respectability. With this impressive form, UEFA Champions League runner-up Borussia Dortmund spent a hefty sum of 22 million Euros on Henrikh Mkhitaryan - arguably the best footballer Armenia has ever produced.
But respectability isn't the only thing Armenians want. They are yet to qualify for the Euros or World Cup after becoming an independent state in 1991 and playing first international match in October 1992. They want to play on the big stage, but getting there isn't going to be easy.
Armenia's newest challenge sees them placed in a group with Portugal, Serbia, Denmark (again) and Albania for qualification for the 2016 European Championships. It is hard to see Armenia advancing to the "Big Show" in France, and with that comes more questions about FIFA's ranking system - How much worth is there in Armenia being ranked number 30 in the world when it has yet to qualify for a major tournament?
Today, this small nation of 3 million residents (but with a diaspora of 27 million) lost 2-0 to Russia in a friendly. A win would have helped Armenia further climb FIFA's ranking system, but is this a true indicator of how a nation compares to others? Portugal, Serbia and Denmark are all ahead of Armenia in the rankings (and France are joining the group just for fun as they qualify as hosts). Despite the tournament expanding to 24 teams, finishing in the top 2 looks like a huge ask. No group is easy, but FIFA seems to think the system gives everyone a shot.
Sepp Blatter certainly thinks so, and with that said it is a surprise that Jack Warner hasn't gotten Trinidad and Tobago in the top 10, or a place at the Euros!!!
All Armenians know is that they'll have to do it the hard way again.