India have climbed an unprecedented 72 places in the Fifa rankings in two years. In the rankings released on Thursday, India were 101, moving 31 slots north from where they were in March. This is India’s highest ranking since May 1996.
India are now ranked 11th in Asia above Jordan, Oman, North Korea, Iraq and Thailand. They are two slots below China and one behind Qatar.
India were the second best movers behind Macedonia, who jumped from 166 to 133, on the list that ranks 211 countries.
The monthly Fifa rankings are a greasy pole but India are likely to hover around this mark going into the friendly against Lebanon on June 7 and the 2019 Asian Cup qualifier against Kyrgyz Republic, at home on June 13. Should India win both, they could make it to the 90s, for the first time since April 1996.
In March 2015, a month after Stephen Constantine had taken over as India head coach, India had slipped to 173. “It has been a difficult road. Bringing in new blood and creating competition for places in the team has been a process, and I’m pleased we are moving in the right direction,” Constantine was quoted as saying in a media release from the All India Football Federation.
Beginning with the victory against Guam in November 2015, India have won 11 of their last 13 matches including two last month.
“Working our way up further will give us favorable draws in continental competitions,” said Sunil Chhetri. In a media release issued by his club Bengaluru FC, Chhetri said: “…But while we should celebrate every success, big or small, we also need to realize that the real test begins now….”
India’s highest on the Fifa list was 94th in February 1996. India were 99 in November 1993 and 100 in October 1993, December 1993 and April 1996.
“When I took charge of the AIFF’s technical committee, India were in the 170s. I hope the team continues the good work under Stephen,” said Bhaichung Bhutia, who was the head of the AIFF’s technical committee that got Constantine back to India, over the phone from New Delhi.
In Kolkata, Shyam Thapa, who now heads that committee said: “Credit to Stephen and the boys. We need to keep this momentum going and I hope all clubs in India accommodate the requirements of the national team. To take charge at such a time is an honour but also a lot of hard work so that India don’t slip from here.”