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May 2, 2014

Juventus exit hits Italy's UEFA ranking

Juventus' failure to reach the Europa League final after losing to Benfica on aggregate means Italy has been demoted to fifth in UEFA's five-year rankings.

• Rzouki: Benfica defeat will help Juventus grow

Thanks to reaching their second straight Europa League final by virtue of a 2-1 aggregate win over the Bianconeri, Benfica helped Portugal rise above Italy to fourth in the rankings.

Although that does not mean any change in the allocation of berths in Europe for the next two seasons at least, it is nevertheless a further blow to Italian football, above and beyond Juve's elimination.

"Unfortunately, we did not have that one incident which went our way tonight while all they did was obstruct us," said Juve coach Antonio Conte, whose side could nevertheless wrap up a third straight scudetto on Monday. "The Portuguese were just luckier than us. The team who least deserved to go through have reached the final."

That was not the view of the game that Jesus had, however. "We deserve to be in the final because we were better than Juve," said the Portuguese coach to Sky Sport Italia. "We played better both in Lisbon and here."

As a result, it is the first time since 1984 that Serie A has dropped so low in the rankings. Two years after that historic ebb, Italy rose to the top of the standings, holding its place there -- with the exception of 1990 -- until 1999.

Since then, Spanish and English football have overtaken calcio with Germany moving ahead two years ago.

Russia and France are also closing in, although Juve's achievement in reaching the semifinals of the Europa League has at least given the Italian game a boost for the current season with only Spain, England and Germany picking up more ranking points.

The situation is therefore not so bleak. With the 2009-10 season, which included Inter Milan's Champions League triumph, erased from next season, Juve's drop to fifth seems set only to last one year.

Portugal will lose their rewarding 2010-11 campaign -- when Porto and Braga disputed the Europa League final, and in which they picked up more points than any other nation -- next summer with Italy having a favourable record over Portugal in each of the subsequent four seasons, including this year.

For 12 months, though, Serie A can only regard itself as the fifth-strongest league in Europe, according to the UEFA rankings.

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