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Azkals rise to second in South East Asia, 143rd in the world

November 7, 2012 5:43pm

The latest FIFA rankings have been released and they are good reading for the Philippines. Despite losing to Kuwait 2-1, a draw with Bahrain has lifted the Philippines up four places in the rankings to their highest position ever, now 143rd in the world. The rise coincides with the fall of Thailand, which dropped seven places from last month’s ranking after not playing in October.

This means that the Philippines has now overtaken their South East Asian rivals, whom they have only ever beaten once – in the first Philippines versus Thailand game back in 1971. However, in the last two years, since Dan Palami took over the management of the Azkals, Philippine football has risen immensely with the return of many players born from the Philippine Diaspora and the development of infrastructure and organizations, notably the UFL, domestically.

The Philippines' men's national football team rose four notches in the latest FIFA World Ranking posted on the FIFA website Wednesday, November 7. The Azkals are now ranked 143rd in the world, 20th in Asia and second in Southeast Asia.

Global rankings

Globally, Spain continues its dominance, far and above the rest of the world. Germany holds onto second place, while Argentina rises to third in the world. Portugal and Italy complete the top five with England dropping out of the elite rankings and into sixth place. Countries from Europe and South America are unsurprisingly at the top of the world, continuing their dominance of world football.  

Japan continues its dominance of Asian football at the top of the region, with South Korea and Australia completing the top three. Iraq falls the most of any Asian side, dropping 17 places to 97th in the world.

Top four in South East Asia now in Suzuki Cup Group A

The rankings mean that Group A of the upcoming Suzuki Cup truly is the group of death, as it now boasts of the top four ranked nations in South East Asia, all of whom are vying for two qualifying spots for the tournament's semifinals.

Only Vietnam is ranked above the Philippines, just one place above them in the AFC (the Asian Football Confederation which is the governing body of football in the continent). Vietnam however did climb two places in the global rankings, and is now up to 138th in the world after a goal-less draw with Indonesia, a 1-0 defeat to Turkmenistan, a 4-0 win over Laos and a 1-0 victory over Malaysia in October and early November.

Thailand, meanwhile, has a chance to reclaim some ranking points and climb back into the top two in the region after their seven rank fall. Having not played since September, the team known as the War Elephants will begin their preparation for the Suzuki Cup with friendlies against Malaysia (November 7), Bhutan (November 14),  and Bangladesh (November 18).

Myanmar though, is the biggest mover in Asia, having risen an incredible 28 ranks in this month’s edition. An unbeaten run of five games, with draws against Singapore and Laos sandwiching wins over Brunei, Timor Leste, and Cambodia has propelled them up the ladder. The last four of those games were for qualification purposes for the Suzuki Cup final stage and Myanmar will be looking for revenge over the Philippines, who replaced them in the elite of South East Asian football, forcing them to qualify the hard way for the final stage.

Moreover the history books don’t favor the Philippines in this group of death. The resurgence of Myanmar means there will be no easy game or guaranteed points in the group. Two wins out of three will be a necessity to qualify, and may not even be enough by itself. The Philippines has only beaten Thailand and Vietnam once, while they have never beaten Myanmar.

In the Azkals’ favor will be their continued rise in the rankings, which reflects their continued improvement. While the Azkals will be in the toughest group ever in Suzuki Cup history, they'll be there with the country’s best-ever squad. - AMD, GMA News

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