WALES are officially the most improved side in world football - and how Mark Hughes knows it.

Today's Welsh heroes, who were dubbed one of the worst Wales teams in history just 13 months ago, are still on a high after their memorable 2-1 win over Italy - and that Euro 2004 qualifying win alone has shot them up 15 places to 61 in the FIFA World Rankings.

Wales were classed as a football backwater at the turn of the year, slumped at 100 in the rankings -but now after a seven-match unbeaten run, they are the most talked about national side in European football.

Wales' rise of 39 places classes them as the most improved side -- with World Cup quarter-finalists Senegal, who have risen from 65 to 31 as the second biggest movers in the elite list, rising 34 places.

And even Wales supremo Hughes, who has been one of the biggest critics of the rankings system, could afford a rye smile.

"I never take too much notice of the world rankings but this latest list just illustrates what we all thought," said Hughes, who is on the verge of signing a new lucrative four-year contract.

"But we're not going to get too carried away as defeat in Azerbaijan next month will spoil this great start we've had to the qualifying campaign. We desperately need to keep this momentum going."

Wales' opening Group Nine win in Finland ensured they jumped 13 places from 89th - now they have eyes on reaching the top 50 by the new year.

"That would be a superb achievement," said Wales and Aston Villa right-back Mark Delaney.

"Our recent success is testament to Mark Hughes and his coaching team, who are superb. And all the players have worked hard too as the recent results have proven. But the Finland and Italy victories mean nothing if can't win in Azerbaijan."