The Philippine National Football Team has attained its highest ever international ranking at 116 based on the recent list released by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).
From 135th last month, the Azkals ascended 19 spots up following their most recent victory in the joint 2018 FIFA World Cup and 2019 Asian Cup qualifiers.
The national booters registered a come-from-behind win against the tough North Koreans, 3-2, in Manila in the second round of the tournament.
The Philippines ended its campaign in the qualifiers with a record of three wins, a draw and four losses in Group H to move on to the next phase of games for the Asian Cup.
The Azkals are now also at the top of the regional rankings with Southeast Asian rival Thailand below at 119.
According to Azkals’ head coach Thomas Dooley, their success in the world stage is the result of the foundation he laid for the squad a few years ago.
“Success comes with time and development does not come overnight. Players need to understand and experience the change. I am proud of the achievement of the players,” Dooley said in a phone interview with The Manila Times.
“I always believed in them and against Uzbekistan and North Korea, I believe we just found the switch to turn the light on. I just wish we would have more time working together,” the American coach added.
Before winning over North Korea, the Philippines gave the Uzbeks a tough time in Tashkent but the latter escaped with a narrow 1-0 win.
Dooley stressed that he wants the players to continue improving to serve as inspiration to young players.
“I hope our players got the message. [Hopefully,] it will inspire them and the young players when they join us,” he said.
The 52-year-old former US football team skipper stressed the need to focus on preparations.
“We need time to take care of the little details. Planning has to be right [because]development takes time. We need to be very patient. Not every game will be a success. But over time, I am sure that we are on the right path to play in the big league [Asian Cup] with the big guys,” he stated.
The Azkals will be on a long break from international competitions as their next major tournament will be the Suzuki Cup that will start in November.