Azkals climb to all-time high of 143 in the worldBy Cedelf P. Tupas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The Philippines continued its remarkable rise in world football, moving up to an all-time high of 143 in the latest International Football Federation (Fifa) rankings released yesterday.
Picking up points from the 3-1 win over Chinese-Taipei in the final game of the Philippine Football Peace Cup and the scoreless draw against powerhouse Bahrain in a friendly last October, the Azkals jumped four places from last month to become the second-ranked team in Southeast Asia, just behind Vietnam at 138. The Azkals are also No. 20 in Asia.
“It’s a reflection of the improvement of the national team,” said Philippine Football Federation president Mariano “Nonong” Araneta.
The Azkals raked in 184 ranking points, which also took into consideration the results of the last four years aside from the matches last month.
The rankings, instituted in 1992, also saw Thailand drop to 146 and Myanmar rise to 156, which meant that the best-ranked teams in the region will be in the same group in the AFF Suzuki Cup kicking off Nov. 24 in Bangkok.
The other group in the Suzuki Cup made up of Malaysia and Singapore, which are both tied at 163 in the rankings, 165th-ranked Indonesia and No. 179 Laos will be playing in Kuala Lumpur.
While Araneta welcomes the improvement in the ranking, the PFF president stressed the importance of the Azkals doing well in tournaments.
“The Fifa ranking is not the end because the goal in sight is to always perform well in competitions,” said Araneta, noting the significance of the Suzuki Cup and the AFC Challenge Cup, which the Philippines hopes to host next year to enhance its chances of making the 2015 Asian Cup.
Nonetheless, Araneta believes the Azkals’ rise has given the team a huge confidence boost.