The Philippine Azkals got on Thursday their highest FIFA rankings so far at 124.
The Azkals that was ranked 137th in the world last month, climbed 13 notches following their success in the joint World Cup and Asian Cup qualifiers.
Consequently, the Philippines remained the No.1 team in the Southeast Asian region and No.17 in the continental rankings. The Azkals will continue their journey to the World Cup on September 8 when they face Uzbekistan in a home game at the Philippine Sports Stadium.
Meanwhile, Newbie Azkal Luke Woodland might be the possible answer to the team’s center back problem according to veteran defender Rob Gier.
“I do see him as a central midfielder in the future but in the meantime having more competition for places in all areas of the team can only be good for the development of the squad,” Gier said on Woodland in an interview with The Manila Times.
Woodland, who is currently searching for a club after being released by long-time team Bolton Wanderers FC, last played for Oldham Athletic FC on a one-month loan agreement with his mother club.
At the young age of 19, Woodland is a seasoned competitor having represented England in youth level international tourneys.
Gier believes that Woodland, standing six-foot tall fits perfectly in the back-line.
“Seeing his size and physique in person, it was obvious that he could also be an asset at the back,” Gier said.
He added that Woodland could also fill-up a defense position.
“Center back has been a position we have struggled to find any real depth so learning that Luke is capable of play there is a big positive,” he said.
Having three natural center backs, Gier, Juani Guirado and Amani Aguinaldo, it is crucial for the Azkals to put a competent man in the center back position.
After being barred to play in the first game against Bahrain because of eligibility issues, Woodland is now cleared to play for the Philippines.
He was part of coach Thomas Dooley’s new 3-5-2 formation used by the Azkals in their second game against Yemen.
“He dealt with the disappointment of missing out on the first game very professionally and produced a solid display against Yemen,” Gier said.