By MO BHANA
The Indian football team has risen to 96th place in the latest FIFA rankings, it’s best-ever in the over twenty years and the second best overall.
The national team has enjoyed a rich vein of form with a number of impressive results leading to a rise of 77 places over the last two years.
India’s best-ever FIFA ranking to date remains at the 94th spot, which was achieved on February 1996, while 99 was India’s second- best, achieved in November 1993.
The team has now won 13 of its last 15 matches and is unbeaten in the last eight games (including the unofficial match against Bhutan).
India were ranked 171 when Stephen Constantine took over as national coach for the second time in February 2015 and slipped further to 173rd in March 2015 in the FIFA ladder even before the gaffer could have his first game in charge against Nepal, which India eventually won 2-0 on aggregate.
Congratulating the team, All India Football Federation president Praful Patel said: “It’s a giant leap of faith for Indian football. Two years back, we were 173 and now we have reached our second best FIFA ranking ever. The leap signifies the potential of Indian football. Congratulations to the national team boys, the coach, the staff and all in AIFF.”
AIFF general secretary Kushal Das stated: “This comes as a huge boost ahead of our next AFC Asian Cup qualifying match against Macau on September 5, 2017. Hats off to the team for giving it their all in achieving this milestone. Qualifying for the AFC Asian Cup 2019 stays our top priority.”
Constantine said: “When I took over, I had mentioned that my target was to bring India below 100. I am happy to have played a small part in this process. Kudos to the boys, the staff and a big thank you to my colleagues in AIFF for supporting us all throughout.
“I also need to thank Mr. Patel and Mr. Das for their trust in allowing me to do things in the manner I wanted.”
“But the present FIFA spot doesn’t mean that we have achieved much. We need to stay focused on the upcoming challenges.”