After reaching new heights in the latest International Football Federation rankings, the Philippines hopes to finally crack the Top 100 before its historic campaign in the AFC Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates in January.
Azkals manager Dan Palami vowed to pull out the stops to ensure that the team reaches that goal by the time it faces South Korea (Jan. 7), China (Jan. 11) and Kyrgyzstan (Jan. 15) in the 24-nation continental showpiece event in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
The Azkals improved two notches to a record high of 111 in the rankings released by the sport’s governing body on Thursday. It has been a steady climb for the Azkals in the last eight years since Palami started helping bankroll the national team, which hovered between 180 to 190 in 2010.
“It’s a reward for all the hard work of the players, staff and management and the federation all these years,” Palami said. “This wasn’t easy. It has been a long and arduous climb. The rankings have shown how far we’ve developed as a team.”
Ranking points are determined by results of the past four years with the more recent games carrying more weight.
“It’s a good place to be as we prepare for the Asian Cup,” said Palami, noting that a higher ranking will allow the Azkals to attract quality teams for friendly matches in preparation for the continental tournament.
Palami also said an announcement on the national team coaching job would be made soon.
The Azkals are also vying in the AFF Suzuki Cup in November with two home matches against Singapore (Nov. 13) and Thailand (Nov. 21). The Azkals are also traveling to face the playoff winner between Timor Leste and Brunei (Nov. 17) as well as Indonesia (Nov. 25).