India jumped two places to finish 2016 at 135, their best in the last six years, in the FIFA rankings published on Thursday.
This is India’s six-year highest annual ranking after 2009 when India finished at 134.
National coach Stephen Constantine attributed the upsurge to all his players and the staff. “It can’t be achieved without the help of the players. We have an exceptional batch of players as we are in the process of building the team for the future,” Constantine said.
But Constantine wasn’t willing to go overboard with the new rankings. “One of my priorities was to improve the national team ranking when I took over. The results do state that we have improved but there’s still a lot more to achieve,” he added.
“Football results are always determined by the support which one receives off the field. I am grateful both to Mr. Patel (AIFF President Praful Patel) and Mr. Das (AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das) for allowing me to do the things in the manner that I wanted to do. Both of them envisage a long-term plan for Indian football and it’s a total team effort,” he maintained.
“There have been so many positives for us in 2016. Right from the National Team winning the SAFF Championship to the Women’s Team winning the SAG Gold to the National Team beating a team as high as Puerto Rico 4-1 (ranked 114 at that time) in an International Friendly, things are looking bright,” he said.
“The developments off the field saw us win the 2016 AFC Award for the Best Developing Member Association and we also had Uvena Fernandes, the first even Indian referee to officiate a World Cup final match. And of course, we need to remember that we had an Indian Club in the AFC Cup final for the first time ever and one of our youth development product becoming the first Indian player to play in the Europa League,” he added.
The draw for the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers UAE 2017 will be held on January 23, 2017 and India would be playing their first match in the Qualifiers on March 28.