MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Azkals seek to establish themselves as the “top dog” among ASEAN teams in terms of Fifa world rankings, something they hope to achieve with a strong showing in the AFF Suzuki Cup.
“We hope to be No. 1 in Southeast Asia before the end of the year,” said Azkals team manager Dan Palami.
In the October world rankings released by the Fifa, Phl is at 147th overall, its best standing ever, and third among ASEAN nations behind Thailand (139th) and Vietnam (140th).
The Azkals are poised to rise further when the Fifa publishes its new rankings on Wednesday, largely due to their scoreless draw against fancied Bahrain in a friendly last Oct. 12.
According to projections by the Football Rankings website, Phl is likely to move up to 143rd with projected ranking points of 184. This will propel the Azkals to No. 2 in the region, next only to Vietnam (projected at 139th). Thailand is projected to slip to 152nd.
Palami had marvelled at how over the last two years the Azkals have kept themselves busy and scaled new heights in the Fifa world rankings, where the country once stood at low 195th (September 2006).
“We’re at a catching-up phase with our neighbors in Southeast Asia. If you look at the calendar of the Azkals, we’re one of the busiest teams but this has allowed us to develop the team further,” he said.
“In 2010, we were 33rd in Asia; now we’re 22nd and poised to be 21st. We were No. 9 or 10 in Southeast Asia, now we’re No. 3 and hopefully in the next release of the Fifa world rankings, we’ll be No. 2. Again, it will be our highest ranking,” he added.
The Azkals aim to at least make the semifinals of the AFF Suzuki Cup set Nov. 24-30 in Bangkok, where they are bracketed with Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar.
“Hopefully with the Suzuki Cup result we hope to achieve, we’ll open doors to stronger tournaments for the Azkals and result to better ranking for us,” he said.